From the monthly archives: September 2011

men buried in paperwork

I love this word!

argle-bargle n. [mass noun] copious but meaningless talk or writing; waffle: bureaucratic argle-bargle.

Writing Prompt: Write a scene or a poem using the word argle-bargle

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time when you had to deal with argle-bargle.

Art Prompt: Bureaucratic argle-bargle

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story about bureaucratic argle-bargle

Photo Credit: Harald Groven on Flickr

I am honored to be the recipient of two blog awards today: The Versatile Blogger award, courtesy of the marvelous romance author, Myne Whitman and the Liebster Blog award, courtesy of super science fiction author, Sue Ann Bowling. I met both of these women on SheWrites, a social networking site for women writers. Check all three of those pages out. The thing about these blog awards is that they make you work for them! So here we go!

The Versatile Blogger
– Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
– Share 7 things about yourself.
– Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it!

Myne, thank you so much for this award and for giving me the opportunity to talk about myself a little bit.

  1. I am a Toastmaster. There needs to be a 12 step group for this really. I just can’t stop going to meetings! I love speaking and evaluating. I am a fanatic about contests. I earned my Distinguished Toastmaster award last year (that’s as high as you can go, so please, be a little impressed even if you don’t know what it means).
  2. I work for a behavioral health non-profit as an administrative assistant. I work primarily with computers, but the programs I work for are all about helping kids. Perhaps you will not be surprised to know that I formed a Toastmasters group for the kids. They aren’t old enough to be official Toastmasters, so it’s called a Gavel Club. 
  3. I am a geek. I love Dr. Who, Star Trek, science, gadgets, etc., but I have never been to a Con. Will someone please drag me to one? I’m dying to go!
  4. I am old enough to have owned a black and white TV as an adult. I’m also old enough to have gone disco dancing in college. I know, I know. It was hideous. You don’t have to tell me. I was there, wearing the clothes, singing along, doing the moves.
  5. Divorced, no kids, two dogs.
  6. Breast cancer survivor for 11 years. 
  7. Favorite TV show from the past: Murphy Brown, first season when they had the ongoing secretary storyline. Favorite current show: The Closer. Thank you! Thank you so much!
Now here are the 15 blogs:
  1. Words are Timeless Debra Ann Elliott
  2. The Garden Gate by Elizabeth Young
  3. Widowsphere: A Circle of Hope by by Thelma Zirkelback
  4. Leah’s Thoughts by Leah Singer
  5. A Woman’s Nest by Nadine Feldman
  6. Writing in the Flow by Beverly Diehl
  7. Return to Writing by Candyce Carden-Deal, EdS
  8. Carol’s Notes by Carol 
  9. Lind-guistics by Linda H.
  10. Nexus by Jourist
  11. No Credentials Necessary by Kim Haas
  12. But What Are They Eating? by Shelley Workinger
  13. The Phoenix Speaks by DJ (blog has been removed)
  14. Bibliofanatique by Pooja Pillai
  15. Claire McA by Claire
Liebster award
The Liebster Award is given to blogs with fewer than 200 followers. Thank you so much, Sue Ann! As part of the honor, I get to choose five more blogs to pass it on to. Here are some great blogs that deserve bigger readership:
  1. Romancing the Thrill Quill by S.L. Bartlett
  2. Departing the Text by Meryl Jaffe, PhD
  3. View from the Winepress by Eula McLeod (another Toastmaster and a very funny lady)
  4. Pen Name Valontine by Valorie Baker
  5. Robin Hawke (self-titled)
Do yourself a favor and visit all these blogs. They are awesome!
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seer with crystal ball

Science fiction is my favorite genre to read. For one thing, a writer can deal with ethical, moral, and culture issues that often are too touchy to take on in a standard literary form. But more interestingly, science fiction writers must study today’s science and predict the future. 

In an essay titled “Futuristics,” Isaac Asimov pointed out that the obvious prediction is not the most interesting one. It was easy to predict the automobile; what was difficult to predict was the traffic jam. It was easy to predict radio; what was difficult was the soap opera. It was easy to predict the income tax; what was difficult was the expense account. Equally, it was easy to predict the cell phone—Dick Tracy had his wrist radio back in the 1930s—but what was difficult to predict is that users would become so attached to them that they would step into traffic or allow their cars to drift out of control….
Science fiction might well be considered the literature of unanticipated consequences….In fact, to write an effective science-fiction story, all you need is something that the world thinks is an unmitigated boon and to focus on the unforeseen problems that it might create. -Science Fiction Imagines the Digital Future by James Gunn in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine

Writing Prompt: Go to your favorite news site, read a science story, predict an unanticipated consequence that will happen if that science is developed, and write a story about it.

Journaling Prompt: Do you read science fiction? Why or why not?

Art Prompt: Science

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about an invention in your lifetime that has had unexpected consequences.

Photo Credit: Kraetzsche (busy) on Flickr


When I read this story, I was shocked. I have no idea how these people ever sleep!

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the very archetype of a “closed society.” It ranks dead last—196th out of 196 countries—in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press index. Unlike the citizens of, say, Tunisia or Egypt, to name two countries whose populations recently tapped the power of social media to help upend the existing political order, few North Koreans have access to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. In fact, except for a tiny elite, the DPRK’s 25 million inhabitants are not connected to the Internet. Televisions are set to receive only government stations. International radio signals are routinely jammed, and electricity is unreliable. Freestanding radios are illegal. But every North Korean household and business is outfitted with a government-controlled radio hardwired to a central station. The speaker comes with a volume control, but no off switch. In a new media age awash in universally shared information—an age of planet-wide instant messaging and texted manifestos—the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains a stubborn holdout, a regime almost totally in control of its national narrative. –North Korea’s Digital Underground by Robert S. Boynton (The Atlantic, April 2011)

Writing Prompt: Put your character in a situation where the radio never turns off. What is on the radio? What is your character’s reaction? How does your character cope?

Journaling Prompt: What media outlet do you wish you could turn off forever and why?

Art Prompt: Propaganda

Photo Credit: Paul on Flickr


When our civilization dies, what will die with it?
Civilizations rise, exist, and fall, each taking with it into the limbo of forgotten things some of the discoveries which made it great. -Andre Norton, The Time Traders (free for your Kindle or Kindle software)
Writing Prompt: Write a scene set in the future where archaeologists are uncovering a great discovery of our civilization that had been lost.
Journaling Prompt: What is the most important thing that we should preserve about our civilization?
Art Prompt: Ruins
Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience the story of some of the relics our civilization will leave behind from the POV of a future archaeologist.
Photo Credit: Alun Salt on Flickr

Writing is a solitary vocation, or so people want you to believe. But really, it’s not. It takes a village to write a book. Or a story. Or a memoir. Or creative non-fiction. (You get the idea.) In the writers village, you’ll find a wide cast of characters – the alpha readers, the beta readers, the proofreaders, the fact checkers, the illustration editor, the illustrator, the acquiring editor, the developmental editor, the substantive editor, the copy editor, the cover artist, the marketing director, the managing editor, the publicist, and, well, you are probably getting the idea that this village is big and complicated for a writer to navigate.

Indie authors generally don’t have such a diverse village. They try to do as much of this work as they can on their own. But no indie author should be without alpha readers, beta readers, and proofreading. Why not trade these services with other writers? Traditionally, this has been difficult online. There are email groups and forums set up for this, but many writers worry about having their writing stolen or losing the ability to sell the first publication rights.

What if there was a site online where writers and other professionals could collaborate on a story without risking loss of publishing rights? Where only people specifically chosen by the author have the right to view and comment on it? And, just for fun, what if this cool collaborative space was free? Wouldn’t that be awesome? It sure would!

A couple weeks ago, the developers of a new site,, contacted me to see if I would come to try their site and write a review of it. And here is a partial review.

There are some really great things about this site. The interface is uncluttered, and the site is fast. I had some difficulties setting up my profile, but the customer service was fantastic. (And in the process of fighting with Libboo about my birth date, I had a great story idea!)

I recruited an alpha reader on SheWrites and uploaded a short story.  My alpha reader, Nadine Galinsky Feldman of A Woman’s Nest, joined Libboo and sent me a friend request. It was simple to add her to my team for the story. Once on the team, she saw my request for specific types of feedback. She read the story at Libboo and provided her feedback within their system. Every step along the way, I got email notifications so that I knew what was happening with my story and my alpha reader.

If I put another story up at Libboo, I could make a choice as to whether to invite Nadine to my team again. Just because she’s on the team for one story doesn’t mean that she is automatically added to any team I set up. I got great feedback from her, but I also learned that she’s not a target reader for the type of story I had her read. I don’t want to burn her out reading stuff she won’t enjoy, because I want her to be willing to help me in the future. I also would rather have writers who are familiar with the genre as my alpha readers.

I’m still learning about Libboo, so I’ll post more as I work through the stages. I’m still looking for alpha readers for this story. It’s horror in the tradition of the Brothers Grimm and runs just under 3k words. If you’re a writer, and you’d like to play around on Libboo with me, sign up for an account, and then send me a Libboo friend request. I’m listed there as WritingReader. If horror’s not your thing, I’ve also got a cute dragon story I’m going to post over there as soon as I have some fantasy alpha readers. Sign up and post on my profile that you’d like to alpha read it.

If you’d like me to be an alpha reader for you, I read sci fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, and suspense. Invite me!


Tagged with:

open workspace

One of the biggest stressors in our lives is the workplace. There are a lot of studies about how to design a productive work place, but what really works?

While building a supportive environment for employees may seem intuitive, Dr. Toker says that many workplaces have lost their way. Despite open concept offices, many people use email rather than face-to-face communication, and social networking sites that may provide significant social connection are often blocked.

How to make an office friendlier to your health? Dr. Toker suggests coffee corners where people can congregate to sit and talk; informal social outings for staff members; an internal virtual social network similar to Facebook; or a peer-assistance program where employees can confidentially discuss stresses and personal problems that may affect their position at work — anything that encourages employees to feel emotionally supported, she says. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Where does your character work? Describe the environment. What is your character’s feeling about this space? How does it create tension or nurture your character?

Journaling Prompt: Write about the work space you have at your job and how it affects you emotionally.

Art Prompt: Office

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell a humorous story about your workplace.

Photo Credit: mundo resink on Flickr


lucky cat statues

I struggle with description in my writing, so I was charmed by how this writer took a simple question from a blogger and turned it into a beautiful and creative writing exercise. 

I’m holed up in my lair, a.k.a. my home office. The walls are a poisonous apple-green, a hue suggested by my colorist and agreed to by me for reasons I no longer recall. My desk faces a window that’s obscured by an immense Entish pine tree which may well tear apart the entire house one day. Large bookshelves flank the walls, containing hundreds of research books, various editions of my own work and a handful of treasured childhood tomes, as well as an array of tchochkes and keepsakes including a replica of a Minoan libation vessel, a Yoruba woodcarving, a Xena: Warrior Princess action figure, a Fortune Beckoning Cat, and the bust of a Gorgon sporting a jaunty top hat that says “Happy New Year.” -Jacqueline Carey in an Amazon Omnivoracious blog interview about her new book, Naamah’s Blessing (Kushiel’s Legacy)

Writing Prompt: Write a description about your work space that introduces a reader to your personality.

Journaling Prompt: What does your desk say about you?

Art Prompt: Work space

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about your workspace.

Photo Credit: Auntie K on Flickr


“In the last quarter of the twentieth century, at a time when Western civilization was declining too rapidly for comfort and yet too slowly to be very exciting, much of the world sat on the edge of an increasingly expensive theater seat, waiting – with various combinations of dread, hope, and ennui – for something momentous to occur.” -Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

Writing Prompt: Write the scene where that something momentous occurs.

Journaling Prompt: What momentous event are you waiting for?

Art Prompt: Waiting

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience what you are waiting for.

Photo Credit: Wootang01 on Flickr



study of the arcane

arcane adj. understood by few; mysterious or secret: arcane procedures for electing people. arcanely adv. mid 16th century: from Latin arcanus, from arcere ‘to shut up’, from arca ‘chest’.

Writing Prompt: Write a scene using the word or concept “arcane”

Journaling Prompt: What kind of arcane knowledge would you like to have?

Art Prompt: Arcane

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Use the word ARCANE in whatever you write today.

Photo Credit: John William Waterhouse-Circe The Sorceress shared by FrauBucher on Flickr