My novel is done! + Pod38: Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins

This post's title over artist Ann Newmarch's poster of a woman carrying a man. Under it is written, "Women hold up half the sky."
I can’t believe I never saw this image before, though Australians have known it for decades. It’s by artist artist Ann Newmarch.

Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins Happiness Between Tails

#Beauty #Elves #Flamenco #StoryTelling #Aging #Body How do you define beauty? Birgit, who is from Germany and blogs from Denmark shows us how ugly-cute trolls are! 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 Royal beauty and about today’s guest 1:05 Birgit’s True Elfins My question for you HBT outro Spanish iconic painter, Goya Links used for the HBT blog post of this episode: Birgit’s Stella, oh, Stella site Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. About my novels-in-progress. About María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, 18th Duchess of Alba About Spanish iconic painter, Francisco de Goya. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Birgit in one of her gardens. The surprise she found in her garden. María del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, the 18th Duchess of Alba. Later in life. Earlier in life. Francisco de Goya’s “Black Duchess.” An incredible loaf of bead I baked in under two hours, with a link to where I got the recipe. — 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 “Royal Beauty + Birgit’s True Elfins.”

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.

Yay! It’s done! I finally finished (I know, I know it took foooor-ever!) writing my book #1 (Flamenco & the Sitting Cat) of the two novels (#2 is Tango & the Sitting Cat) that are linked, but that can each stand alone.

Ulp! Now what?!

First up is to record the beginning section of it. The book a series of letters (a.k.a. epistolary) grouped in 12 parts (a nod to the 12/12 rhythm of flamenco). There’s producing a teaser, an intro, an outro, and the first set of letters. When it’s publicly aired, there will be a press release to write.

For now, the audio sample will only be to give agents a preliminary listen, in the hopes that the audio sample will create extra sparkle. Acting experience of a prior life demonstrated that there’s a lot more to agents than merely attracting one.

The real ginormous trick is to find a phenomenal one; someone who is fair and communicates well. Most of all, someone with great connections and who’s belief in the potential success of our collaboration can motivate them to work hard. That means I need to cull a list of appropriate agents and write an enticing pitch.

My inclination is to continue listing stuff to do because I’m so excited, but I’d just be repeating the same whirling thoughts over and over. So, moving along…

But wait, I also need artwork that looks equally good as a book cover and a smartphone thumbnail. One that can apply to the podcast too, and be easily customized for each new show segment.

Thanks much, blog friends who pointed out a while ago that my old cover resembled something for kids or teens.

Moving along once more in what’s turning out as hodgepodge as my brain at the moment…

For anyone out there doing the WordPress-blog-to-Anchor-podcast two-step — is it just me or do you also have to wait an entire 8 hours for your newest show episodes to appear on WordPress’ podcast editing block’s drop-down menu? After a chat and emails with WordPress, they said they would look into it, but you know how that’ll probably go.

More on podcasting: editing podcast shows on iMovie is easier than learning GarageBand. Nervous that my shows may technically suffering in ways I can’t hear, I scrounged for official comparisons. Seems iMovie is just as good, given that I’m using only voice, occasional sound FX and music, not mastering elaborate music compositions.

Again on podcasting: in the same way that blog posts can look different, for better or worse, depending on the device, so can audio shows. I asked Anchor if there’s a way to ensure that sound levels don’t vary. Basically they answered “no,” but that they would put it on their list.

More on Anchor: grousing, but also bringing up these complaints so you won’t think it’s just you doing something wrong — why is it too much trouble for Anchor to add page numbers for one’s editing list of show episodes?

More Swiss cheese thoughts…

A couple of days ago, I finished listening to humorist/autobiographer/essayist David Sedaris’ latest book, Happy-Go-Lucky.

Cover of "Happy-Go-Lucky" by David Sedaris.

He admits his dark humor isn’t for everyone. With each book, I’m smitten with how searingly self-searching he is and doesn’t settle for “all-good/all-bad” depictions and outcomes tied with neat bows.

This time he totally blew my mind with his honesty about his dad. Like me, he had one monster of a father who in old age showed flashes of something akin to softness and a smidge of regret. But so, as the “fruit” of such a person, what does one do with that?! Like when my father got nicer yet was still creepy and came onto me a couple of years before he died? In many ways, it was easier when he was just blatantly horrible…

My review of it for Amazon and Goodreads:

One of his best. Happy-Go-Lucky hits the nail on the head when it comes to showing how things aren’t always black or white — that they can lie within the confusing rainbow in between.

Each of his books, all his thoughtful self-disclosure, brings to mind the 1970s Women’s Lib phrase, “The personal is political.” Upon googling it, turns out some criticized it for really referencing white woman privilege. I’d like to reclaim it to define how, when we get really day-to-day honest and authentic enough to strive for better, it helps everyone.

Like how blogging makes the world smaller and small voices bigger.

Included in Wiki’s information on the slogan was a reference to bullseye-scoring Ann Newmarch’s artwork at the top of this post.

Here I flit to a happy thing, a quotation I just found that dovetails with a major theme within my novel…

Director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up): I used to think, “Oh, these are coming-of-age movies.” But I think people are still coming of age at 80 and 90.

And now I’ll trip to some thank you’s to Infidel753, who’s guested at Happiness Between Tails here and here. He’s got quite a following and each time he’s kindly featured me among his Sunday round up posts, lots of new people check out my site. His round-ups are a rollercoaster of links: from political horror to outright silliness, and glorious to nails-on-chalkboard ugly. And he keeps visitors updated on safe abortion information to use in these barbaric times. 

Thanks too, Fair and Unbalanced (in addition to blogging, he podcasts), for mentioning me in your thought-provoking roundups.

Before I wear you out with all this jumping around inside my head, here’s my Amazon and Goodreads review of, Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes “the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Captivating for any age! Beautiful artwork and lovely writing. A real delight!

Cover of Born Hungry: Julia Child Becomes "the French Chef,” authored by Alex Prud’homme and illustrated bySarah Green.

Now to end with a sweet pro-old-lady clip from Disney’s Moana…

Have you scored any victories this week?

What day is it? + Timo’s Poem + Pod29: Fondant Peonies by R. Cheadle

Photo of Khashayar and da-AL with their Persian New Year decorations.

What day is it? Those sprouts among the Persian New Year decorations got left (as is traditional) at the park to regenerate in their own way, but first K-D-doggie had a fun time tossing them about, a fun substitute for the squirrels and rabbits she was forbidden to chase.

Do It Yourself Fondant Peonies by Robbie Cheadle Happiness Between Tails

#Dessert #Authors # Food # Books #Birthdays When her family needs to stay home more than usual, Robbie Cheadle, a South African author of a huge range of books and videos, takes care to keep things cheerful. That includes whipping up special desserts, like these fondant peonies. How does your eating change when you need to stay home more? 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 Robbie Cheadle teaches us how to make fondant peonies 2:00 My question for you 6:00 HBT outro Links for this episode: Author Robbie Cheadle's homepage Original blog post for this episode at Happiness Between Tails. Photos available at the HBT post for this show: Robbie Cheadle Pictures for each step to constructing these lovely edible blossoms. — 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 “DIY Fondant Peonies by Robbie Cheadle.”

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.

Persian New Year, always on the first day of Spring, is celebrated in Iran and many other countries. For some it’s secular, for others it isn’t, but for anyone who does, it’s a major holiday. The same goes for Sizdeh Bedar, also known as Nature day, which thirteen days later marks the end of the celebration.

People wish my husband and me all kinds of things around now. It would have been easy to laugh this year when we were wished a happy Purim and a happy Ramadan. However, it’s sweet that anyone wishes us goodwill and that they know something non-United-States-originated is happening about now.

Sorry, I didn’t snap any pictures of us, my husband and extended family, celebrating Sizdeh Bedar last weekend. We were all too shivery. Under chilly (at least for us thin-skinned Angelinos) gray skies, we had fun despite our shoulders hunched to our ears and our hands buried deep into our pockets. We ate quickly before picnic foods cooled from tepid to cold, like the fresh bread I baked that morning, and Khashayar’s thick noodle stew with beans (better known as Aash Reshteh) that he’d wrapped to keep warm like a baby.

K-D-doggie was desperate to check out the many squirrels and bunnies at the park where we gathered. Nonetheless, she was a very very good doggie because so long as she got some affection, she didn’t bark, run, or whine.

If a thirteen day can potentially ward off evil spirits, then it’s okay that it was a grim one. Several days later, we’ve got a heatwave, up from the 60s to the 90s. Rain or shine, one can’t predict what’ll happen in April, the month of my birthday, of April Fools, of tax returns needing to be submitted —and we’ve got my brother-in-law coming. No one knows how it’ll wind up for him, how challenging it might be for him to acclimate, yet we hope for the best and are excited to see him.

I wish the planet well, that our leaders will commit to more than grandstanding and worse. Leaders who don’t mind the oblivion that can result from working for peace. Harmony provides far less spectacular headlines than warring and experimenting with iffy new currencies.

Today’s guest, Timo Schmitz, blogs from Germany. He describes himself as a language fanatic, philosopher, journalist, poet, and book author. Visit his site for more about him and more of his thoughtful poems like this one…

Photo of Timo Schmitz.

Dark Ink by Timo Schmitz

Dark ink, dark as the coming night,

Flows down this piece, with no delight,

Scratches the paper and forming a river,

While my emotions start to shiver.

 

So many mem’ries I wanted to put inside,

How much I fought for us, how you left me aside,

That I can’t forget you, even after time has passed,

And that your shade on my heart still lasts.

 

When the summer sun on the photo vanishes,

And the first snow of the winter comes,

Knowing your life goes on, as if you never knew me,

While without you, I don’t really feel free.

 

My breath, my deep breath,

When my heart felt like it stopped,

When I saw in deep in your eyes,

Eating up this black death.

 

I give you my kingdom in dreams,

Yet dreams they must stay,

Not to worry, not to hurry,

Because now you are far away.

 

Black ink dries up, becoming one with the paper,

We are separated both, now and maybe later,

Won’t drown in your seductive ocean’s wave,

Not melting down a grove, each one staying in one’s cave.

 

Can’t we free ourselves?

You know I adore you,

I am not me anymore!!!

But again, I want to be myself.

 

How is your year faring?

Vid + Squat 4 Health/Politics + Pod16: J. Diamond Published 100+ Books

Photo of 3 men smiling and doing full squats.
Can you do this and smile? Image by edwindoms610 from Pixabay.

Novelist Jacqueline Diamond Published 100+ Books! Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #NovelWriting #Reading #Animals #Books #Fiction #Romance Award-winning author Jacqueline Diamond has published over a hundred books: mystery, non-fiction, romance for all ages, historical, and modern. What fiction are you reading at the moment? 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 The original Happiness Between Tails blog post (H-E-R-E) that goes with this episode includes all the links below and photos: Original blog post. Jacqueline’s site with more about her, her blog, tips on writing, and a list of her books purchase info. This video interview where Jacqueline discusses how to develop interesting characters. This video where she describes the storytelling ins and outs of point-of-view. Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) HBT introduction 2) da-AL discusses today’s topic and tells a bit about today’s guest 1:07 3) Jacqueline Diamond discusses how animals figure into her novels 2:30 4) This episode’s question with info on how to comment and learn more 4:41 — 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 Jacqueline Diamond Published 100+ Books!” 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 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.

Picture me sitting on my haunches atop a conference table, assigned to perform an entertaining Toastmasters speech titled, “Benefits and Politics of Squatting”…

The subject first piqued my interest years ago, when my mom moved in with us. To make things extra comfy for all (including for when I’ working on my novels H-E-R-E), we had some construction done on our snug home.

Each morning, a crew of men assembled under our backyard gazebo. Aged from early twenties to eighties, they all immigrated to here in the United States from Cambodia.

The way they waited for each other to show up amazed me! In totally relaxed full-squats, the gentlemen sipped coffees, munched pastries, chatted, and smoked. Once all arrived, they stood; none of them groaned or complained of creaky bones.

Lunch involved more of the same. They full-squatted as they passed around freshly steamed rice with fragrant grilled meat and veggies. Afterward, still squatting, they finished with smokes and maybe a bit of candy.

Fast forward to some time later, when I broke my knee twice in the same year. Torn cartilage, fractured bone, stretched tendon, blah, blah, blah. Ouch!!!! and Ohno!!! don’t begin to cover it.

Screenshot from video of da-AL's speech on the benefits of doing full squats.
Squatting for my speech.

Enter, Francisco Rufino, a gifted yoga instructor who pointed out that squatting keeps people in India free of knee, back, and digestive problems.

Thanks to his suggestion that I squat for thirty seconds, five times a day, as I watched TV, my knee is so restored that I never needed the surgery that two doctors beforehand prescribed! Yesterday I went for a long jog and experienced no problems whatsoever!

Full squats align muscles and organs from toes to neck. The aid in…

  • Getting rid of hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and hernias.
  • Preventing heart attacks caused by straining on European-style toilets.
  • Alleviating incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Making pregnancy easier.
  • Guarding reproductive organs, including protecting against prostate cancer.

So why don’t we do it more? When I gave the speech, at least one audience member expressed disgust. My h-a-unch is that we believe we’re too good for it — and that includes politically. This Korean woman, married to an Anglo man, explains his chagrin when she and her family squat while socializing.

Would people you know feel embarrassed if you squatted while you relaxed?

Writing Humor + Tips + Podcast 12: 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?

Gender Vid + Beaman’s 7 Memoir Tips + Pod 11: Girl Scouts Trans Allies

Writer/blogger/memoirist Marian Beaman.
Writer/blogger/memoirist Marian Beaman.

Transgender Rights, Coyotes, Girl Scouts, and Gaslighting Happiness Between Tails

#Transgender #Coyotes #Coyotes #GirlScouts #Gaslighting (Thanks for the photo, Magda Ehlers from Pexels) Girl Scouts turned away a $100,000 donation because the money came with a stipulation that the organization wouldn’t be allowed to help anyone who is transgender — better still, they collected $250,000 from people who were overjoyed by their integrity! In this interview, a couple of scouts work hard for their community… Growing up, did you join youth groups? How many homes did you reside in and schools did you attend? Speaking your truth combats gaslighting.  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 Links for this episode: Happiness Between Tails blog post with the links below, plus photos of the telephone pole sign the girl scouts made, and a screenshot of their website. The Coyote Crew Wikipedia’s overview of the Girl Scouts of the USA. Video of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt addressing Girl Scouts in 1937. List of vintage Girl Scouts TV commercials on Youtube. Back in 2002, the Girl Scouts aired this ad of a sassy young girl putting her dad in his place. A clever 1976 TV commercial for the Girl Scouts. Time Stamps (where segments begin): 1) Happiness Between Tails intro 2) da-AL chats about today’s topic and a little about today’s guests 2:00 3) Girl Scouts guests, Ava and Jamie 5:30 4) This episode’s question with info on how to comment and learn more about Jamie, Ava, and da-AL 12 — 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 “Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E. (This show has a new graphic to reflect that it’s shortened from an earlier version that included information that’s become outdated. Anchor’s tools make editing easy!) 

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.

  • By the way, check out T-H-I-S end-of-the-year round up video that Spotify just sent me about my podcast.

I go by she/her. What pronouns do you go by? It’s as simple as that. Any writer (I’m working on a couple of novels) and reader knows words are important…

Don’t let fear of unintentionally offending others keep you from interacting. Whether that person goes by they/them, he/him, ne/nem, or prefers not to be referred to by gender at all, it’s always appropriate to ask.

Thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library, this video simplifies pronouns:

Ever worry that your voice doesn’t need to be heard or that it’s too late to start your dream? Writing takes imagination — and courage! It helps to meet writers who have been our shoes yet still pushed ahead to success, such as Marian Beaman. (Also, H-E-R-E’s the site where, for free, I separated her face from the background) …

Author blogger Marian Beaman’s childhood was as a Pennsylvania Mennoite, who are also known as “plain people.” She went on to a career as a college professor, and now writes books from her home in Jacksonville, Florida. Visit her blog for more about her, her other social media, and links to her books. Here she invites us to glimpse her writing process and offers seven tips for memoire writing.

Writer Marian Beaman stands in front of a bookshop window featuring her book, "Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl."
Writer Marian Beaman stands in front of a bookshop window featuring her book, “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl.”

How Writing Memoir is like Riding a Train by Marian Beaman

Trains take me back to grade school, evoking the fondest of memories, like this one.

My friend Wayne and I paused in our play in the woods during summer vacation. We waited for the dusty, black engine to emerge from the heat haze around the feed mill on the edge of our village. The slight curve of the train’s coal cars behind it cut a path beyond the trees. We sprinted to get a closer look and then stopped in our tracks, observing the slow, rhythmic bursts of the steam engine pulling toward us from the east. To us, the Pennsylvania Railroad train was more than a space on the Monopoly board.

Other snapshots of train travel spring from my memory, all in the present tense:

  • My Aunt Ruthie Longenecker takes my sisters and me to Philadelphia, my first recollection of a train trip. I feel the rocking motion of the Pennsylvania Railroad train car we occupy, the clickety-clack of the wheels on the rails, and the prize of the big city zoo at the end of the trip: lions and tigers and elephants, oh my!
  • When I pick plump, red raspberries with Grandma Longenecker, I hear the train’s clatter-clack over segments of track speeding from Lancaster to Harrisburg. With our round aluminum kettles laden with berries and handles that cut into the palms of our hands, we stand just 50 yards from the track, gazing in awe and feeling the vibration of the passing train through our shoes.
  • I travel with Aunt Ruthie to Temple University, taking the train from Lancaster to Philadelphia. We feel the rocking rhythm of the train when it slows and stops as the conductor calls out “Coatesville, Downingtown, Paoli” before we reach our destination at the 30th street station in Philly. 

The train trip from Lancaster to Philadelphia was not an express train. It made 5-6 stops on the 80-mile route from the countryside of Pennsylvania to the big city. By fits and starts, we made the journey in time for our 9:00 a.m. classes at Temple University. Same on the return trip. Slowing down and starting up again got us to and from our destination. All in good time.

It strikes me that writing novels, memoirs or other non-fiction is much like train travel. Lots of pausing, stopping, but sometimes even joyfully going full throttle through the countryside. The most important part of the plan: Staying on track. 

Here’s how I followed my unique route, writing my memoir, “Mennonite Daughter: The Story of a Plain Girl”:

Memoir Lesson 1

Be prepared to spend at least a year, or even five years to complete your book. Simply put: It takes as long as it takes. Writing is certainly rewarding, but learning a new skill (as I did) can be hard. I had done plenty of writing as an academic, but switching to a new genre like memoir required a totally different skillset. I took two family history writing classes to prepare. You? Start somewhere. Doodle or write poetry. Write prose in a journal. Begin a blog. 

Memoir Lesson 2

A memoir is a slice of your life, not a biography. Ask yourself some serious questions: What part of your life will you depict–-scenes from your childhood, a traumatic experience, a thrilling adventure like sailing around the world? Can you sketch out this “slice of life” in a series of memorable moments? Write an outline? Scribble random thoughts on colored sticky notes? Draw turning points on a timeline? 

Memoir Lesson 3

What is your theme? If it’s success after a failed first marriage, that controlling idea will be the filter through which you tell your story. Flashbacks can add dimension to writing, but only if these stories connect to your theme. I enjoy cooking, but  I don’t open up the spice cabinet or pull down everything from my dry ingredients’ shelves and dump them into the bowl. I have to be selective. Just so, you can’t tell every story that happened in your life. Select scenes to fit your theme.

Memoir Lesson 4

Memoir writing, like fiction, requires a series of steps. Here are a few: writing multiple drafts, revising, revising (Did I say revising?), and deciding whether you want to pursue traditional publishing or independent publishing. If you self-publish, as I did, I had to find beta readers for early drafts (often author friends with whom I reciprocated the favor), searched for a developmental editor, copyeditor and proofreader. A helpful tip: I looked on the acknowledgements page of authors whose books I admired and found one wonderful editor there.  

Memoir Lesson 5

Super important: Read what you’ve written aloud occasionally. Train trips engage the senses. Invite your readers to be your seat mate on the ride. Help them escape into your world. Slow down the narrative as you let them see the view from the window. Help them feel the rocking motion as the train speeds along. Let them hear the sound of wheels on the rails. Listen to strangers carry on conversations around you: making unobtrusive notes may help you write realistic dialogue later on.

Memoir Lesson 6

Plan for publication. I began blogging six years before my book hit the shelves. It’s never too early to establish yourself as a writer. From the beginning, my blog posts appeared on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram has been also a great place to share fun stuff. Personal relationships too are very important and so rewarding.  I found rekindled friendships and connections to author friends invaluable as I organized my book launch and marketing.

Memoir Lesson 7

Take breaks. The train to Philadelphia made frequent tops. At some of the stops, I got up from my seat, went to the restroom, or walked up and down the aisle. Sometimes en route, I stopped reading my textbook and just gazed out of the train window. I enjoy reading, so sometimes my break was reading an entertaining book. Like the cadence of clack-clack on train tracks, the rhythm of someone else’s words refreshed my mind.

And finally, “Celebrate!”

Be sure to party along the way, not just when you hold that newly minted book in your hands, but other times too: Finishing your first draft, receiving a compliment from an early reader, picking a title, approving your cover design. Enjoy the entire ride!

Do you fear it’s too late to pursue your dreams?

Hair Coloring 4 Men and All + Pod10 What’s Ableism? by Wheelchair Teen

Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen Happiness Between Tails

#Ableism #Disability #Teens #Blogging #Girls #Black #Media #InspirationPorn Inspiration porn: How much do you know about real, everyday people with disabilities? Do you see them praised for doing basically nothing? What do you think about media depictions of disabled people? Comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. buymeacoffee.com/SupportHBT Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen 1:55 My question for you 12:50 HBT outro Links referred to in this episode: Happiness Between Tails blog post for this episode. The Wheelchair Teen – My life as a black, disabled teenager. The Wheelchair Teen’s research citation Photos available at the blog version of this show: The Wheelchair Teen in her wheelchair, her wheels, giving a presentation about disabilities to children at a primary school, with her hand over her mouth and the words: “Stop stifling disabled voices in media” on them, and The Disabled Teen having fun in front of a carnival wall. Artwork for a disabled character she created for a comic. — 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 to the blog post of “Ableism: Discrimination Against Disabled People by The Wheelchair Teen.”

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.

Strong + flexible + tough + soft = healthy looking hair.

NOTE: you can also listen to the audio/podcast version of what follows.) 

A dear friend recently complimented me on my hair and requested I do a blog post on hair coloring for men. I’m not a man and my husband doesn’t die his hair, but hair is hair, right? And after all, any novelist (here’s more about the books I’m working on) worth their salt can imagine, no?

In my late teens, I hated my straight hair so much that I permed it. When my hair turned into something that looked like a cheap wig, I spent the next 10 years trying to fix it with chemical treatments that all looked like hell, hell, and more hell.

Enter color! It took a while to get the hang of, but when at long last I did, my hair became something other than either limp and greasy or fried and broken. Henna in particular gives it body and shine, and nourishes the hair and scalp.

Regardless of the type of hair, the way to avoid breakage and dullness is to steer clear of toxic chemicals (I try not to put anything on my scalp and skin that would kill me if I ate it) and heat. That means keeping to a minimum stuff like hairdryers and products with strong chemicals (the scalp takes in whatever we put on it almost as readily as our mouth membrane), including ammonia, peroxide, and alcohol. Sprays of any kind are iffy because they usually include alcohol. Moreover, they’re not so great for the lungs.

Buyer beware: “natural” doesn’t always mean what it should, so read the ingredients. This beauty site lists a bunch of places where you can analyze beauty products. Products don’t have to be pricey to be healthy.

Scalp and root care are as important as hair care. Our scalps easily absorb whatever we apply. Don’t over-stress follicles with excessive massaging and brushing.

  • Hair is weakest and stretchiest when it’s wet, so gently comb it with a wide-toothed comb. If it’s too tangly to manage, detangling sprays can help.
  • Warm to cool water, not hot, helps immensely. Think fluffy wintry cats and dogs, versus short haired ones that live in hotter climes.

Many men, of course at all, have shorter hair. If one ruins short hair, it grows out relatively quickly. Keep in mind that the longer one’s hair is, the more pummeling it gets when mistreated.

Hair Repair: Olive Oil

Lots of oils and conditioners are out there, but olive oil works wonders for me. Once a week or so, first thing in the morning, I don grubby clothes that I don’t mind getting stained, slather it on, then I go about my business (as long as it’s not the kind of business where I need to look presentable) for a couple of hours. It soaks in while I eat breakfast, write, clean my house, and talk on the phone. Then I shampoo it out.

Conditioner is also great for mending hair and can be used in place of shampoo.

Dyes in General

  • What color to choose if you want to stay close to natural and are only covering grays or roots? To avoid looking artificial, first try a shade slightly lighter than your darkest strands. It’s easier and gentler to hair to darker over a mistakes than it is to go lighter, which is quite involved and can be damaging.

Everything requires gloves. Get any on your fingernails and be prepared to have to grow that tint out. Try to keep as much of them off your hairline so you don’t stain your face (some dyes stain worse than others). Many people apply a thick oil like vaseline to prevent their foreheads from getting marked.

I’ve dabbled with semi-permanent and permanent dyes. Again, read their ingredients or you’ll wind up with awful hair. Application for both is the usually same, always marked on their boxes: in a nutshell, leave it on for roughly 20 minutes, then wash it out.

Coloring: Root Touchups

These are meant more for covering what shows, i.e. temples and where you part your hair. They wash out immediately and come in many forms: sprays, crayons, powders, and mascaras. Check customer reviews so you don’t wind up one that rubs off onto hands and pillow cases.

Spray: A dear one recently mentioned they were wearing a spray. Even after they showed me, I couldn’t tell at all!

Semi-Permanent Dye

These are less likely to include harsh ingredients like ammonia, though read the ingredients. Depending on brand, color, and frequency used, they wash out in anywhere from a week to a couple of months. As a result, it’s easier to go back to natural, if that’s what you want. They fade gradually, as opposed to needing to be grown out, and the contrast between dyed hair and undyed roots is lessened.

By the way, semi-permanent tints also come as “coloring shampoos.” For the sake of this post, I tried two. Neither deposited any color I could see, though maybe it was just the type of hair I have? Worse, though, the one supposedly for men and with added conditioner made my scalp burn. When I shampooed the following day, after doing my best the following morning to make up for the abuse by applying olive oil and letting it sink in for several hours, there were quite a few more hairs than usual in my drain.

** NOTE: anything that results in hair loss and/or the sensation of burning and/or itching are to be avoided at all costs. Remember, scalp health is paramount.

Permanent Dyes

These last longer, but depending on the brand (read the ingredients), they’re harder on the hair. Also, growing them out involves sporting the zebra look.

Natural Dyes: What I Use

Basic henna is what I use. Henna, a.k.a. lawsonia inermis, is powdered tree leaves. It’s cheap and I have yet to find that one brand is superior to another, so don’t be fooled by the expensive varieties. You can buy it by the box at most Indian and International grocery stores, or online in bigger bags, like I do.

If the package of henna doesn’t say only “natural henna” and lists a variety of colors, it has other stuff added to it. Beware that often those are as chemical-laden as commercial dyes.

Bulk packages of cream of tartar, indigo, and henna can save you a lot of money.

Basic henna (which Wiki defines here) is a greenish powder that dyes coppery and translucent, meaning it shows the color of the hair beneath it, same as water colors reveal the color of papers they’re applied to. They stain coppery orange, as you can see at this site. The lighter the hair, the brighter the result. To tone down the orangy red, I continually experiment with adding stuff to it, which I’ll get to later.

It helps to keep dying powders in recycled jars.

The more frequently henna is applied, the richer and more permanent the color deepens. Hairdressers often warn against using it, because it can’t be bleached out if you don’t like it, though you can apply a darker dye over it.

Photo of henna powder.
Henna powder is green but dyes reddish orange.

The night before, I mix henna powder with olive oil (or inexpensive natural conditioner) and water. For my length of hair, I use four ounces of henna, one cup of cool (not hot) water, and roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil. (From what I’ve read, unrefrigerated henna keeps its dying strength up to 12 hours.)

The trick is to stir in whatever liquid incrementally, so you can add enough that it’s not overly thick and stop before it’s too runny. You’ll be leaving it on your hair for a couple of hours, so you don’t want it driving you crazy by running down your neck and spilling into your eyes. Conversely, you don’t want it so pasty that you can’t spread it down to your roots.

Cover it and let it sit overnight. The dye is said to be “released,” when it turns extra dark in places. The next morning, scrape the sides of whatever container you use and give everything an extra stir.

Henna paste in an iron pot.
Henna gets darker in an iron pot.

Using an iron pot darkens henna, which is why I use this one intended for Korean cookery. The plastic shower cap I later use on my head protects the charming wooden lid, even though I use this pot only for henna.

Photo of reused gloves, plastic wrap, clothes pins.
Reusable gloves, plastic wrap, clothes pins, and tape come in handy.

Henna Add-Ins

To help it take better hold, I stir in a bit of acid, like lemon juice vinegar, or cream of tartar, which I buy in bulk at a fraction of the cost of small grocery store shakers.

Photo of cream of tartar powder.
Cream of tartar added into henna helps the color to grab into hair.

Eucalyptus oil is said to stimulate hair growth. So are rosemary and thyme.

To offset the orange color, sometimes I add a couple tablespoons of cheap instant coffee granules (no need to waste the good stuff).

I haven’t tried it, but some people dye their hair simply by mixing instant coffee granules with conditioner, no henna, and letting that sink in.

Indigo

This greenish powder from indigo, that Wiki defines here, leaves dyes blue-black. It was used to color the first jeans. It’s great for dampening the reddish hue of henna.

Photo of indigo powder.
Indigo powder dyes blue-black.

Indigo requires 10-20 minutes to get wet, but if you wait a lot longer, it loses its coloring ability.

First thing the following morning, I heap a couple of mounded tablespoons of indigo into a separate container. Sometimes I just stir it directly into the henna, but I think it stains better with this extra step. Dyes stain, so using plastic containers, like clean empties from yogurt, is a great way to recycle.

Photo of indigo paste.
Indigo paste mixed with olive oil takes 10-20 minutes to set.

Applying the Henna Treatment

Wear something dark enough to not show stains and grubby enough to not bother you if it does stain.

In the bathroom, where I have enough mirrors to see the back of my head, I clothespin old bedsheets that I use as drop-cloths to prevent staining walls and floors. (Any messes that happen anyway are easily removed with a couple of drops of bleach.)

Photo of old sheets pinned around bathroom as drop cloths.
Old sheets make great drop cloths.

Dampening hair beforehand (I spray mine with a conditioning detangler) enables the henna to slide on easier and more thoroughly down the the roots.

Gloves on, I massage the henna into my scalp and through my hair. Then I cover it with the cheapest shower cap I can purchase in bulk. Wrapping keeps the henna moist and prevents brown smears on every wall I pass. For good measure, I tightly wrap a length of plastic wrap around my hairline and tape down the end to keep it from unraveling. With the protective film on, I continue to press the henna down to ensure it nourishes my scalp as it works.

Two hours or more later (I hear some people keep on henna overnight, though I haven’t tried it), after I’ve eaten breakfast, cleaned the house, done some writing, texted friends, etc., I’m ready to wash it out.

Rather than shampoo, I use conditioner, working it in and rinsing it twice, similar to how I use shampoo. For the sake of conditioning, though, I let the second application soak for several minutes. Then I rinse it in cool water until the water runs clear.

Use a darker towel to dry your hair, so you don’t have to worry about stains.

If you can help it, don’t shampoo for at least a couple of days, for the color to intensify over time.

Comment or leave a question and I’ll use it to update this blog post.

Writing Collab by P. Springer + Pod6: 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.

The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney Happiness Between Tails

  1. The Margaret Fishback Papers by Novelist Kathleen Rooney
  2. Discovery + Connection in Stories by Maria Alfieri

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?…

20 Podcast Promotion Tips by Fiona Livingston

Reading… writing… listening! Hey, if “seeing is believing,” why doesn’t the same go for tasting and feeling and smelling — and hearing too?

When’s the last time you tuned into your fave radio show? Same as radio shows, podcasts are story readings, performances, interviews, and monologues. Radio shows are often repackaged into podcasts that allow you to dictate when to tune in.

When my first novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat,” is edited (and then its sequel, “Tango & the Sitting Cat”), I’ll podcast them to create a buzz for when it’s published. Here’s an experimental podcast episode I produced borrowing a friend’s short story. A video version of it is on Youtube as well.

Creatives who want to control their work and keep 100% of their profits must become their own promoters. Podcasts are one way to get the word out. First, though, people need to know you have a podcast.

Here to give us 20 ways to do that is London-based Fiona Livingston. She blogs about marketing and podcasting on Medium, and produces The Culture Bar, an  arts and culture-related podcast…

Blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston is a content and digital marketing specialist.

“20 Podcast Promotion Tips,” by Fiona Livingston

You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating and recording your podcast series on a subject you are knowledgeable about. Now you need to get your podcast in front of audiences who are as passionate about the subject as you are.

But how do you get your podcast in front of listeners when there are 850,000 active podcasts out there in the world? 

This article covers the best, easiest, and most effective podcast promotion ideas to help you build your audience and market your podcast.

Fiona's illustration of "eau de marketing" trends makes me smile.
Fiona’s illustration of “eau de marketing” trends makes me smile.

First, let’s make sure you have some key podcast staples under your belt before you start promoting your podcast:

  1. Podcast cover artwork. My top advice for creating cover artwork is to be clear. Once uploaded onto your podcast distributor, the size of your artwork will reduce a lot, so you want something bold, simple, and eye-catching. You can create your artwork by using templates on Canva, or if you have a mac you can use Keynote which is a very powerful design tool. Here are some great cover artwork examples to inspire you.
  2. Episode titles. The way you title your episodes has a big impact on your total download numbers. My main tips for you are to NOT use a naming system such as ‘Episode 4’ or ‘XYZ Podcast: Episode 4’. You need to let your audiences know at a glance what the topic is so, your title should be as descriptive as possible.
  3. Record 3-5 podcasts before your launch/start of your next season. This will ensure you have a regular schedule of events planned out and also gives you time to record future episodes. Make sure you have a launch schedule in place. For example, in the first week, you can release 2 or 3 podcasts to keep audiences hooked.
  4. Create a dedicated podcast website. This can either be a section on an existing website or you can create a podcast website for free using providers such as WordPress, Wix, or Squarespace. These sites give you a valuable presence on search engines and act as a home for your podcast so audiences can find out more about you. This also gives you further opportunities to supplement your podcast with more content to show your expertise and passion. 

Ok so now you have a great podcast recorded, fantastic eye-catching cover artwork, and launched a dedicated website. Let’s start promoting your series with these top tips (this list focusses on free marketing actions):

Fiona produces an arts and culture podcast.
Fiona produces an arts and culture podcast.

  1. Add your podcast to a distribution platform. Upload your podcast MP3 file to distribution sites such as Podbean (free and priced programmes) and Anchor (free) and they will automatically send your podcast episodes to a variety of podcast sites such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Amazon Alexa. Apple podcasts capture 32% of podcast listeners and downloads so your podcast must appear here.
  2. Meta-tag your podcast. On your chosen distributor and website, make sure you complete the meta-tagging options. This is the place to add keywords relating to your podcast, so it shows up in search results and makes you discoverable.
  3. Create a promotional trailer. This helps audiences understand what your podcast series is about, and you can embed this on your website and social media channels. Find tips on how to make a trailer here.
  4. Add show notes and include hyperlinks for each podcast episode. It is good practice to give a short summary and overview of what is included in your podcast episode. This is also a great place to add links to your guest/s or any resources that you mention in the episode.
  5. Leverage guest audiences. Make it easy for guests to share your podcast by creating audio snippets, quote cards, or prewritten tweets for them so they can easily use these on their social media channels.
  6. Create podcast artwork for each episode. Using your main cover artwork template, adapt it to show the title of each episode, and change the imagery to give each episode an identity and theme.
  7. Create a dedicated podcast social media channel. Set up a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram profile to promote your podcast.
  8. Create quote cards in Canva or Pablo. Select attention-grabbing quotes from each episode. This gives listeners great insight into what’s to come.
  9. Share rich media. Create extra content such as soundbites, audiograms (using tools such as GetAudiogram), behind-the-scenes photos, or teaser video clips to build excitement about your episode. Also, Twitter has an embed feature using Soundcloud so you can play the audio directly from a Twitter stream.
  10. Tease the episode 24 hours ahead of time e.g. 3x on Twitter and 2x to Facebook/Instagram. Talk about behind-the-scenes content in Instagram Stories.
  11. Create an audio-video to share on YouTube. If you use a provider such as Podbean they will automatically create a video for you and send it to your YouTube page. YouTube is a huge search engine for content and should be included in marketing your podcast. Or you can create a video using a tool such as Screenflow (free trial period) and use free video clip assets from Pexels.
  12. Audio transcription. To ensure your podcast is accessible and aid SEO discovery, you can create an audio transcription and add it to your podcast website. You can use audio transcription tools such as Otter.ai (free for up to 40 minutes, otherwise it’s $9.99 per month) to help you do this.
  13. Include your podcast in your e-newsletter. You can easily create your own e-newsletter using email service provider such as Mailchimp, Flodesk or Campaign Monitor to manage your subscribers and send them notifications about your latest podcast. Mailchimp and Flodesk have free basic tiers, and Campaign Monitor starts at $9/month. 
  1. Publish podcast-themed blog content on your website. A useful way to keep your website content fresh and to also include extra in-depth content on your podcast theme.
  2. Be a guest on other people’s podcasts. A great way for you to showcase your knowledge and build awareness of your podcast.

Photo of blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston.
Photo of blogger/podcaster Fiona Livingston.

Here is a list of other important Podcatcher sites your podcast should feature on to generate greater visibility:

  1. Overcast
  2. Stitcher
  3. Podcast Addict
  4. Podcast subreddit
  5. PodcastLand
  6. TuneIn
  7. Bello Collective
  8. Deezer (great for French/EU audiences)
  9. Podcast Listen notes

Got a podcast or want to start one?

Transgender Rights, Coyotes, Girl Scouts, and Gaslighting: with Videos

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

I was in the middle of working out some particularly knotty bits of writing my novels when sweet K-D doggie dropped a ball at my feet. Her message was loud and clear: it was time for a walk. A couple of blocks into our stroll, we encountered this hand-drawn sign stapled to a phone pole. Note the adorable drawings of “doggos” and “cats,” the encouragement to educate oneself under the attention-grabbing “Coyotes are Dangerous!” headline.

Photo of neighborhood poster by local Girl Scouts.
This is the adorable of neighborhood poster I encountered while walking my doggie, hand made by neighborly Girl Scouts.

The coyotes and humans of Los Angeles County make for troubled neighbors. On the one hand, coyotes were here first. The burgeoning number of humans has put a strain on the families of our four-legged population. On the other hand, the more desperate coyotes get for food and shelter, the bolder they become about snacking on small family pets. To their credit, they also munch on vermin such as rats and mice that spread nasty germs and dine on backyard gardens.

Intrigued, I tore a paper tag from the sign, which noted the sign makers’ website. As soon as I got back to my desktop computer, I looked up the “Coyote Crew.” According to their site, they’re on “a mission to safely and peacefully get coyotes out of your neighborhood.”

As it turns out, they’re Girl Scouts! First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt thought Girl Scouts were great. A video on Youtube from around 1937 shows her with an encampment of girls from all over the world. In her speech, she relays a greeting from her husband and urges them to “grasp every good time you can.”

Of course, I had to invite the Coyote Crew to introduce themselves here at Happiness Between Tails. That led me to research the Girl Scouts, given that I knew practically nothing about the organization.

When I was a kid, other than a bit of high school team swimming and water polo, I didn’t join groups because my family didn’t have much money. Also, contrary to a relative who’s forever tried to gaslight me, we moved around a lot. By the time I left home at eighteen, I’d lived in fifteen apartments and attended ten schools.

What I learned about the Girl Scouts is impressive! They’ve been around since 1912 and have been lauded by everyone, including President Barack Obama.

Moreover,  they’ve repeatedly fended off groups that don’t want transgender girls to join. In one case, when a Bigoted Deep Pockets mailed them a check for $100,000 with the stipulation that they not help anyone who is transgender, the Girl Scouts mailed it back to them! Better yet, they collected $250,000 from people who were overjoyed by their intregrity!

Here’s a list of links for an array of girl-positive vintage Girl Scouts TV ads. Isn’t this 2002 ad below just the very best?! It highlights how little girls, cute ones included, have brains that should be nurtured, particularly by their fathers…

The organization is big into teaching self-reliance and smarts, including when it comes to money. Their cookie selling is epic. Their aptly titled “The Cookies Are Here” commercial from 1976 is smart and funny. The way all kinds of people stash them in all sorts of unexpected places makes me want to run out and buy some…

Now, here are Ava and Jamie, the two Girl Scouts behind the sign my dog and I saw on that telephone pole, to tell us about their coyote awareness project project. They’ve put together a great website where they can emailed from…

The Coyote Crew's website photo.
Here’s a picture of a page on The Coyote Crew’s website.

 

“A Silver Award Project (But Socially Distanced)” By Jamie & Ava, members of The Girl Scouts and of The Coyote Crew

Hi, we’re The Coyote Crew, Bronze award and 500/1200 club Girl Scouts who have always fought for animal rights and against animal cruelty. Our journey with animal rights started when people close to us had their cats killed by a coyote, and we have been searching for ways to protect our neighborhood pets from coyotes ever since. About a year ago, we were faced with the challenge of coming up with a project to do for our Girl Scout Silver Award, and so the Coyote Crew was created! Our mission is to help inform people about the dangers of coyotes, and the fact that the coyotes need to be protected as well as our pets. It is our job as humans to keep our animals safe and keep ourselves safe from wildlife, while respecting the boundaries of wild animals, especially those who live around neighborhoods. This project will tell you a little bit about coyotes, how to keep your pets safe from them, why harming coyotes is a bad idea, and expose you to the personal lives of people living with coyotes practically next door to them through interviews.

Meet the Crew

Hi I’m Jamie. I have always loved animals, and after doing a research project on animal testing in fifth grade, I became passionate about animal rights. I joined PETA, and several other animal rights foundations and organizations and began buying cruelty free products. My extensive research on animal rights never touched the topic of coyotes, and although coyotes continued to be a negative thing in my life, I always thought that they deserved more than what humans give to them. Depleting their food source and taking over their land, making them skinny and hungry and unable to live without eating our pets. So I helped start The Coyote Crew. Of course, I have never particularly liked coyotes- my next door neighbor had his cat, Jazz, killed by one, and my dad had to clean up the cat’s dead body in their front lawn. Nobody liked that experience in the slightest, obviously. Jazz was an awesome cat, and we all miss him, but he is only gone because the coytes didn’t have any other options or land to hunt on. And what I hope to do is to make sure that coyotes don’t have a chance to eat the pets, and that humans don’t have intentions to hurt coyotes.

Hi I’m Ava. I have always been scared of coyotes coming into my neighborhood. Some of my firsthand experience includes having coyotes visit my neighborhood, and even being only feet away from one as a small child. Ever since I was a little kid I cared for animals and their rights. One of the main topics I wanted Coyote Crew to cover was that while we should take action to get coyotes out of our neighborhoods, we should not harm the coyotes in the process. Another point is that not only should we strive for our neighborhoods to be free of coyotes but to learn and educate others on why coyotes come to neighborhoods in the first place. Most times when there is a conflict between the two, it is misunderstood on what is really happening on either side. Hopefully in my future I will continue on this journey of learning and educating about animals as it is a topic that cannot be explained in simple words.

The Coyote Crew as a whole has always been about peace between animals and humans. Our goal is to keep coyotes peacefully and safely out of your neighborhood. That however, is only one of our motives for doing this project. Our second one is that we are Girl Scouts with the determination to achieve our Silver Award. If you are unaware of what that is, it is a project most Girl Scouts go through; the qualifications for it require 50 hours of work towards the project, it has to contribute to the community, and you have to work with the community itself. So far we have completed 50+ hours of work and presented to five classes about our project. We have also hung up posters and even started a website.

Now doing this during a literal Pandemic has been no easy feat. Whether it was the fear of contracting the virus itself or the struggle of actually getting the project planned and finished, there were complications. We would say that about 95% of the project was online or digital. We haven’t met up for any of this project.

It sounds crazy to say, but all of our meetings were either on Zoom or facetime. The Pandemic added extra stress about our working with the community, because we haven’t been able to really work with the community as of late. Luckily, we had an opportunity to present to a few classes and interview community members with experience over Zoom. And to make our project sustainable, we thought the internet is one of the few things that will stay for…well a long time to say the least. What better way to do so than to make a website?

Check out our website and email us from there if you are interested in protecting yourself and your pets, and email us with any coyote related questions! Our website explains simply how to keep your boundaries with coyotes and how to keep yourself and your pets safe. There is also a link to a podcast we spoke in (coming soon), an interview with a cat fosterer who has a lot of experience on coyotes, and pages where you can email us and have your own experience with coyotes put up, including an encounters page, a Q&A, and “a design your own flier” (to put up in your neighborhood warning about coyotes.) We hope you use the information in the website and put it to good use, as well as interacting with it. We don’t have many supporters now, but we do hope to in the future!

Thank you so much for reading our article, it means the world to us! We are so grateful to have been invited to post on this site. We never thought we would get as far as to be sought out to speak about something we care about so much, and we appreciate every ounce of support!

The Coyote Crew

Growing up, were you a member of any youth groups? How many homes did you live in and how many schools did you attend? And remember, the best way to combat gaslighting is to speak your truth…

COVID, Friendship, Writing, and Books: We’re better

It’s official — as of yesterday, I can smell the cinnamon in my oatmeal and taste hot chocolate — hurrah! Smelling flowers is uplifting — but no longer worrying that I could be snuffed out by toxic air or spoiled food? — mega-hallelujah!

Senses, mwah and mwah! Please don’t ever leave me again! Here’s to hoping that a benefit of COVID will be more research spent to help all who have limited abilities to smell or taste…

Illness is dreadful, but now that I’m securely on the other end of it, I see it provided me some upsides. For one thing, it’s reminded me how beyond-lottery-winner-fortunate I’ve always been in regards to wonderful friends — and that includes you, dear reader. Most strangers are merely people we haven’t yet had the opportunity to become friends with, no?

Besides appreciating the kindness of pals and soon-pals, I wish I could say I completed extensive writing on my “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” and “Tango & the Sitting Cat” novels, but my writing energy was nowhere to be found.

However, sitting and lying about  enabled me to do some reading. Without revealing plot points, here are my reviews of four books I’ve just finished. When I review books I appreciate, I notify the authors. Occasionally they email me back 🙂

Cover of "Earthlings" by Sayaka Murata

Earthlings: A Novel by Sayaka Murata

Pardon the gray matter, but my brain just exploded. This book is like nothing I’ve ever read before — and I read a lot of books and genres.

Picture Sayaka Murata’s earlier book, “Convenience Store Woman,” as a string of firecrackers that cleverly illuminates how soul-sucking capitalism can be. “Earthlings” is akin to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when 80,000 people vanished in the blink of an eye and 200,000 mostly civilians perished.

Equal parts sci-fi, reality, magical realism, comedy, horror, satire, and gore, she says this is her other-worldly response to a Japanese health minister’s announcement. In 2007, he said, “The number of women aged between 15 and 50 is fixed. Because the number of birth-giving machines and devices is fixed, all we can do is ask them to do their best per head … although it may not be so appropriate to call them machines.”

Granted, there are beaucoup reasons “Earthlings” isn’t for everyone — but I have no time for those who’re simply offended that the story isn’t as cutesy as the iconically Japanese cover. The same goes for reviewers who lament the dearth of “likable” characters. For Murata, no one is all-good or all-bad, and no gender or age has it easy. Surely when Murata named an essential character “Yuu,” she knew the meaning of “you” in English.

Cover of "Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends" by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

Friendshipping: The Art of Finding Friends, Being Friends, and Keeping Friends by Jenn Bane and Trin Garritano

This is a wise and chatty culmination of what the authors learned as co-hosts of their “Friendshipping” podcast. Their mantra: “Friendship is a skill.” Indeed, it’s one that merits continual honing, for which they offer great suggestions.

Cover of "The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention" by Julia Cameron

The Listening Path: the Creative Art of Attention by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron’s 12-week manual, “The Artist’s Way: a Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” is ultra groundbreaking to creatives of any ilk. Each non-fiction book Cameron has published since then reiterates much of her original teachings — but for me, the repetition often works. This newest text is a 6-week DIY course that emphasizes the value of listening to each other, our environment, and ourselves.

Cover of "The 90-Day Novel" by Alan Watt

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt

Good chance Julia Cameron fans will enjoy this, given that there are a few similarities. If Cameron doesn’t resonate, you still may find this bread-crumbs/inside-to-out writing approach useful.

Are you reading or writing lately?