Happy Eclipse Day!

Monday mornings always inspire me. I like the feeling of a fresh start. A clean slate. A whole week to accomplish the things I wanted to do last week but didn’t get around to. Well, we’ll see about that one. 🙂

Today we’re looking forward to the grand spectacle in the heavens, 10:30am -1pm our time. It’s a glorious day here with clear blue skies, so we can expect a good views of the eclipse. Right where we live they’re saying it will be 70%.

If you’d fly over the Canadian prairies today, you’d see that harvest has begun in Manitoba. Around where we live the golden fields are waving in the breeze and farmers are greasing up their combines. Our goldenrod and Canada thistle are coming into bloom — the first signs of autumn. Our nights are cool. The hummingbirds are still coming to our feeders, but it won’t be long until they’re on their way to Mexico.

Blog-ographically, you are going to see some change here, too, more book reviews in the next few weeks. Over the past two years, while I’ve been recovering from my illness, I’ve read quite a few books. I know all writers appreciate a (hopefully positive) review on Amazon and Kobo so, since I’m writing them anyway, I’ll post them here as well.

“What goes around comes around,” they say. I’m hoping when Silver Morning Song goes live on the vendors’ sites folks will review it, so I should be ready to do the same for other authors. As I write this, my book of short stories and poems is being formatted for download to the net. I’m getting excited to see it for sale on Amazon and Kobo!

One thing I should mention:
If you do purchase any e-book from Amazon, be sure to read, or at least skim through, the whole book. Unless they’ve changed their policy recently, they don’t pay an author unless most of the book is read. If you’re paying them for the book it seems only right the author gets their share, even if the book isn’t that hot.

I’ll kick off with this review:
One star — but I’ll give the writer credit for having a terrific imagination.

510 Creative Writing Prompts: For Aspiring and Experienced Writers
by Jonathan Wright
Kindle edition sold by Amazon Digital Services

“To each his own,” they say, and this book of prompts is NOT my cup of tea.

Usually I can find something that interests me in a book of writing prompts but I skimmed through the whole book looking for what I’d call a normal scenario. Nada. These are all the sensational types. If you write sci-fi, horror, thriller, paranormal, zombies, etc, this book is full of prompts for you.

Blog Alert: Posts Can Disappear

One day last year I wrote a limerick to fit with a cute picture I’d found and I posted it on my old blog, Christine’s Reflections. Yesterday I thought of that poem and decided I’d post it again so I did a search of my blog and found the Post title: “Bad Hair Day.” The title is there, the Likes and Comments are still all there — even the WordPress ad is there — but the post and image have disappeared!

Well! What happened?

Guess I’d better find my own stored copy. So I searched through my word processor and two flash drives looking for a copy and turned up Zilch. Nothing. I must have written it on an impulse, posted it, and not saved a copy. Foolish me!

I wondered if I could find that post by going through my blog’s media file. Sure enough, the image I’d used for the poem was in my media library. It gave the attachment page as “Bad Hair Day” with the date and the link. So I do have a record that I posted it August 29, 2016. Clicking on the link got me back to that title — and the empty post.

This is the second time this year that I searched for a post and found the main part gone. I’d e-mailed the link for one of my short stories to another blogger back around April, he’d read it and commented. A couple of weeks later when I wanted to find that story again and pass on the link, I found the title, the Likes and Comments still intact but the story itself had disappeared. Thankfully I had a backup copy in my file storage.

So what happened to my posts? Has this ever happened to anyone else?

I consulted the folks at Word Press and they say I must have deleted that post — which I definitely did not. I wouldn’t have because I wanted to reblog them someday. Besides, when I’ve deleted posts before, everything is gone: the title, Likes, Comments. There’s no trace it ever existed.

So either there’s some glitch in my/their system and it slurps up post texts, or someone has snitched them. Not just copied, but totally removed.

I was ready to give up hope that my poem would ever show up again when I had a bright idea. My dear husband, bless his heart, subscribes to my blog — and he never deletes his incoming e-mails. I verified the date of the post, went into his In Box, searched through his e-mails for that day — and there was my poem! Sure, it’s not anything brilliant, but we writers are quite attached to our offspring scribblings and don’t want them disappearing.

Note to self: ALWAYS SAVE a copy! that’s why DropBox and flash drives were invented.

Given my own experience I’d advise other bloggers: subscribe to your own blog and save posts when they pop into your In Box. That way you’ll have a record of having posted this item if it should ever disappear and/or show up as someone else’s work. Or partner with a blogger friend to save each other’s posts, at least the poems and stories you may want to use again. Having a record could turn out to be very important.

Copyright reminder to all bloggers:
It’s against the law to help yourself to anyone else’s writings and claim them as your own. This is THEFT and can lead to PROSECUTION. Everything posted on anyone’s blog is automatically protected by international copyright laws; copying and saving someone else’s work without permission — never mind complete removal! — is a crime.

Respecting someone’s work, and giving credit where credit is due, is a basic human decency. Most bloggers are reasonable people and if you ask permission to copy something, assuming it’s for some good purpose and you give them credit as author, they’ll give it.

Lastly, in case you’re wondering about the poem I’m making all this fuss about, I’ll post the picture and limerick in my next post. It may be a silly little verse, but it’s mine. 🙂

Cousin Eric’s Burger

I’ve been thinking of trying something on the darker side for a change so I hope you’ll accept this second response to the Friday Fictioneers prompt. My efforts at inserting a dark and sinister twist to a tale will begin with this scene from Friday Fictioneers Family picnic.

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, a gifted writer of historical fiction. Check out her blog for the “Blue Frog” link to all the other stories written for this prompt. This week’s photo prompt is supplied by CE Ayr a writer of short fiction tales with a twist. (Please note: this photo is copyright and cannot be used elsewhere without the owner’s permission.)

PHOTO © CEAyr

Cousin Eric’s Burger

Cousin Eric enthralled the children with his “alien space rock” story at the FF picnic.  Little Andy, especially, peppered Eric with questions until his mom finally shushed him.

While fixing their burgers by the grill, Andy piped up again. “Uncle Eric…”

“Hush! You’ve pestered Uncle enough.”

“But Mom…”

Dad frowned. “Not another word until after dinner.” Andy sighed and shrugged.

After they’d eaten Eric said, “Now Andy, what did you want to tell me so badly before?”

“Two flies landed in the ketchup on your burger and you didn’t see when you put the top on. It doesn’t matter now. They’ve…uh…disappeared.”

~~~~~~

Afterwards:
Our beloved Aunt Ardatha Flint, attending the event, took notes on the ruckus Andy’s announcement caused, for anyone who’s interested:

Andy’s mother and father were duly horrified, embarrassed and chastened. (Hop it, Mark Twain. Long live adjectives!)

Cousins Eric and Martin wrote a new blues tune for the occasion. Sounded something like, “There’s a bier on my steer,” but don’t quote me.

Cousin Shelley and other tender-hearted ones were blinded by tears. Cousin Dale — a bit sassy — burst something while rolling on the floor laughing. Didn’t catch what; I think she said it in French.

Cousins Bill and Russ gagged — but they’ve swallowed worse in their day. (We all know who munch the mums last week.) The Scottish cousins insisted, “Nothin’ but mutton for me!” Cousin Sandra, the cook, threatened to stuff them with haggis.

Cousin Sabina mulled over this extra spice while Cousin Reena vowed to reinvent the hamburger. The vegan cousins, feeling vindicated, were blooming with good cheer.

Cousins Iain and Indira I’d us indecisively; Cousin Kat searched for one of her nine lives that escaped in the ruckus. Cousin Keith puzzled over a text message he insists was written in Greek.

The British cousins bristled when they heard others joke about doing a Brexit from this unprofitable clan. “Rubbing salt in the wounds!” they wailed. Then when the Yanks started yukking it up about “Boston iced tea” I feared we’d have a Donnybrook.

But Cousin Linda urged everyone to remain calm, Cousin Sarah dealt with the pottier ones and Dr Ali in front of the stair, attempted to reprogramme the hotheads.

Cousin CE, just in from France, offered to make a short story of the fuss by feeding us all to Nessie. However, I’ve heard her bite isn’t too sound anymore.

Cousin Chris was extremely cross when her membership in the Miss Marple Mystery and Mayhem Society was suddenly and inexplicably annulled. (How I love adverbs!)

Getting a Handle on Better English

Verbs and Objects, Active and Passive Voice

I wrote these examples in connection with a writing class I took in 2010. I decided to post the lesson here, hoping it might help will someone who’s learning to write English.

As we learned back in school days, there are two types of verbs:
Transitive – verbs that transfer action:
Bess ate the cake; The child spilled his drink; Tom punched the pillow.

–Intransitive – verbs that cannot transfer action
To be is an intransitive verb–it cannot transfer any action.
You can be grouchy (adjective modifying you);
you can be in a hurry (preposition modifying you);
you can be a sweetheart; you can be on the ball,
but you can’t be (as in transfer action to) the ball.

Other verbs are seldom used in a transitive form:
She yelled at her sister; the babies cried for their milk;
the leopard leaped on the deer; the deer ran from the leopard
Take the sentence, He walked on the grass.
On the grass is a prepositional phrase used to modify the verb walked.

To have is a transitive verb, as are most others;
you can have the ball; you can toss the ball; you can bat the ball;
the leopard can chase the deer; Dad can mow the grass, etc.

To complete their meaning, transitive verbs must have an object:
The boy kicked the fence because he was angry.
But…
The child kicked and screamed. This is an intransitive use of the verb.
To be transitive, he must have kicked something: the floor; his mother.
But he couldn’t scream the floor, or scream his mother.
You can scream nasty words to somebody, but it wouldn’t be the clearest phrase to use.
You can toss or hurl nasty words at somebody and be grammatically correct — but very wrong socially. and dangerous if the somebody is bigger than you.

The passive voice is formed by turning the sentence around.
You start with a transitive verb and a direct object:
He hit the ball; she knocked the glass off the counter;
Tom slapped his sister; Mother kissed the cut on the child’s arm.

And you turn it around. To put the object first you would say:
The ball was hit by him;
The glass was knocked off the counter by her;
His sister was slapped by Tom;
The cut on the child’s arm was kissed by its mother.
But I will warn you that editors do not like passive voice.

There are also indirect objects, the to whom or to what:
He hit the ball to his sister; she lent the book to her friend;
the teacher handed the papers to the students;
Mother took the children to the zoo.

It’s harder to form passive voice with all these objects in the way:
The ball was hit to his sister by Tom;
the book was lent to her friend by her;
the papers were handed to the students by the teacher;
the children were taken to the zoo by Mother.

So the “by who”–the actual subject–tends to get dropped altogether.
The papers were handed to the students.
The children were taken to the zoo.

Adding another clause may confuse things even more:
While we were playing ball, Mother took the children to the zoo. Active voice, very clear.

Passive voice: confusing:
The children were taken to the zoo while we were playing ball by Mother.
(You were standing beside Mother while playing ball and someone else took the children to the zoo?)

While playing ball, the children were taken to the zoo by Mother.
(Now the original ball players are lost from view and the children seem to have been doing that.)

While playing ball, Mother took the children to the zoo.
(In the middle of her ball game, Mom left for the zoo?)

This is why editors don’t like passive voice and writers will mostly avoid it. There’s just too much potential for confusion. The time passive voice comes in handy is when you don’t know who did the action or it doesn’t matter.

A parrot was spotted in the park. (No one cares who saw it; it’s the parrot that’s important, though you could say “Someone saw a parrot in the park.”)

The bank doors were locked every day at 5pm. (It doesn’t matter who locked them.)

While the employees were on lunch break, the store was robbed. (No one saw who did it.)

Overheard

Friday Fiction chimes again in Promptland and dings in my InBox, aided by the sweet purple Tinklebell, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Many thanks to her for presiding over this notorious party-line and to J Hardy Carroll for contributing the picture that nudges our creativity this week.

It took some doing to squeeze my contribution into 100 words but I made it. The seed for this tale was planted when I worked with a fellow who peddled drugs on the side. Being on the opposite side of the spectrum from me, he was hostile and would have been delighted to see me quit, but thankfully no plotting like the type in my story.

Photo © J Hardy Carroll

“Yeah, he hates me, but I never thought he’d go this far. And he’ll have planted enough so I’m nailed for trafficking, not just possession. You saved my life, pal!”

“I’m blown away! Sure, I recognized your coworker, but hearing your name, then ‘One call to the RCMP and she’ll be in for years.’ What’s chances I’d be right there to catch that?”

“I’ll head for the nearest police station, tell them what you overheard and ask them to search my car — before they come looking for me.”

“I’d call this one amazing happenstance!”

“I’d call it a miracle.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’ve been away from writing for awhile, wandering through the DropBox Thousand file-lands to gather material for my upcoming book of poems and short stories. I need a better filing system! I’ve made ten sections in my book and putting each item in the right section has involved a lot of shuffling since some stories would work in several sections.

Once the manuscript was ready to be formatted, I converted it from Word Perfect to MS Word — and the fun began! My first plan (four years ago) was for a print book so I (misguidedly) purchased a number of graphics. Now I added them to my e-book file and the switch from WP to Word has thrown things out of sync big time. I don’t have Word myself, so I must take my file to our son-in-law’s computer when I want to open and read it. Which I did and was rather dismayed…

I’ve decided to do an e-book format only — but you rarely see e-books with graphics. So I’ve a question for you seasoned writers: Would you add small box graphics to illustrate an e-book of poems and (mostly) short tales?

I’ve also been beta-reading a book for Florida Pastor JS Park, who’s writing about depression with an aim to helping both those who suffer and those who want to empathize. He hopes to help readers find a better understanding and ability to cope. The book is live on Amazon.com now; you can find it here: How Bad It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.

Poetic Insight Needed

Good afternoon every one. I decided on Saturday that, with what I have up this week, I’d take a mini-break from blogging. But now I want to ask your opinion on a little verse I plan to include in my book — in fact it’s from this verse that I’ve taken the title.

Going back to last week, I was working on my book, Silver Morning Song, trying to get it ready to be formatted as an e-book. I also had an event to prepare for on Saturday: our local Christian bookstore was sponsoring an event and I was given a two-hour slot at their writers’ book signing tables. This was for The Rescuing Day, the cover of which is displayed at right. (Details in the My Books section under the header.)

It was an interesting day. None of us who brought books had huge sales but you have to count it as an opportunity to get your name out there. I had small postcards made up advertising my book and also my blog; I handed out a number of these and sold a few books.

Now that is behind me and this week I have two heavy irons in the fire. I’m still going over my own book, plus beta reading a book on depression written by Pastor J S Park. So I shut off the e-mail notifications on “Blogs I Follow” to cut down on the distractions while I finish these two projects.

But now I’ve come to this one tiny poem, included in my first compilation four years back. It’s from this haiku that I got the title for my book of poems and short stories.

Silver morning dew
distills on silent farm yard
sleeping cat stretches

But then I titled it Silver Morning and upgraded it to:

Silver morning dew
distills on silent farm yard
sleepy cat stretches
songbirds herald the dawn.

And finally, for more connection to the title of the book, I may tweak the title and publish it like so:

Silver Morning Song

Morning dew distills
on silent farm yard,
sleepy cat stretches,
songbirds herald the dawn
with silver morning song.

So, which do you think sounds better the blue the pink or the green? If you have any opinion or suggestion please leave a comment.  Thanks much!

Will’s Cooking Skills

Will set the bubbling pot of stew on the table beside the biscuits he’d just taken out of the oven. Then he tossed another chunk of wood into the stove. With the storm crashing outside like it was — the wind whistling in through whatever cracks it could find — he wanted the fire to stay good and hot.

He sat down at the table and bowed his head for a short grace — a prayer that the food would be edible as much as blessed. “Well, now let’s see what you’ve come up with, Will, my boy. Maybe this time…”

He ladled soup into his bowl, then stretched his long legs out under the table and reached for a biscuit. Still nice and warm. Can’t be that bad. The thing crunched when he took a bite, something like the cracking of a stick of kindling, but his teeth didn’t make much of an impression.

He dropped the biscuit onto his plate. It landed with an hopeless thunk. “I just gotta learn to bake!” He blew his frustration out in a long stream of air. “While I still have some teeth to eat with, that is.”

His thoughts jumped across the fields to the next section, where his brother Jim would be sitting down to a delicious supper, surrounded by his family. Will gazed out the window, imagining them gathered around the table. He could almost smell the meal. Grace was an excellent cook; Jim and the children would be well fed.

Thou shalt not covet thy brother’s wife, nor thy brother’s wife’s cooking. But I’d sure like to have one of my own. She doesn’t have to be pretty or so talented, Lord, just an old-fashioned girl that can cook like Ma and Grace.

He jumped when another crack of lightening lit up the yard, followed immediately by a heaven-splitting boom and a fresh wave of rain. The whole cabin seemed to shudder. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm be over soon!

Loneliness squeezed Will’s chest, making him struggle for his next breath. Even if she isn’t the best cook… If she’d just be here with me tonight when the wind’s howling so wild. We’d wrap ourselves up in a blanket by the fire…

In a flash he saw again Rosanne’s cheery smile — a smile that would have warmed up his cabin perfectly on a night like this. Was she happy now with that school teacher who swept her off her feet and took her away to the city? Why did I dawdle around about it? Why was I so bashful? Why didn’t I ask her first? Will blinked and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Will jerked the reins on his runaway thoughts. Smarten up, old boy. No point crying over spilled milk, as Mom always says. Things are what they are. He picked up the biscuit again, broke it into his stew, and poked it around with his spoon. That’ll soften it up some.

He took a spoonful of stew, frowning at the flatness of it. Maybe Grace could show him what to put in stew to give it some flavor. Then he shook his head and scolded himself. Hey, it’s food and you’re hungry. Just eat the crummy stuff and stop thinking about what it lacks.

He was about to take another bite when someone pounded on the door. Will jumped to his feet and hurried to the door, wondering what fool would be out on a night like this.

He flung open the door and saw a young man standing there. His Nash Rambler stood nearby. Though it was dark, Will thought he saw a face in the passenger window.

“Sorry to trouble you, but I hope you don’t mind me stopping awhile in your drive. The storm was getting so bad I couldn’t see a thing. And my sister’s terrified driving in all this lightening.”

“Don’t worry. You’re welcome to park there. Why don’t you both come in and wait out the storm inside where it’s warm.”

“Thanks so much!” The young man hurried back to the car to get his passenger.

Will cast a guilty glance toward his table. If only he had some decent food to offer. “I was just about to have a bite to eat. What about you folks,” he asked as the two young people stepped inside and shed their coats.

“Brought our own,” the young man said, holding up a sack. “Hope that’s okay. We’d expected to stop somewhere en route, but then this storm came up and I drove like mad to get where we’re going. Our older sister’s just had a baby and Vickie here is going to help her for a few weeks. We’re James and Victoria Franks, by the way. From Empress, on our way to Hatfield.”

“I’m Will McKinley.” He shook hands with his visitors. “You’re not that far from where you wanna be. Once the rain lets up it should only take you another twenty minutes or so.”

Vickie gave Will a great big smile. “Thanks so much for letting us stop over like this. It’s so fortunate James saw your lights.”

“For sure,” Will agreed heartily. He stared into her soft grey eyes and wondered if she could hear his heart pounding double time, louder than the rain outside. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm last all night!

Oh, well. Hatfield wasn’t far away, if he should want to go visiting there some evening.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One day, over at The Write Practice, our assignment was to write a fiction story about someone, giving special attention to developing the main character. I’ve shared with you the scene in Will’s farm home — then added the travellers arrival so as to give the poor guy a glimmer of hope. 🙂 So what do you think of Will’s character? Is he likeable or not, and why?