Moonlight Muse

I recently learned that it’s National Literacy Awareness Month in the US and Charlotte Digregorio, over on her blog, is encouraging haiku poets to promote this form of poetry as part of the event. So here are two of my offerings:

midnight poems
composed when sleep won’t come
only the moon is clear

every night I shed
my daytime persona
moonlight as author

cover page

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Literacy Awareness Month seems to be a great time to announce my newly-published anthology of stories and poems. Silver Morning Song celebrates the joys of the natural world as well as amusing and inspirational tales about human nature and interactions, including family relationships.

After four and a half years in the works, I can now share the good news that Silver Morning Song, only in e-book form at present, is live both on Amazon and Kobo now. Do check it out.

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Breaking the Land

It’s time for another Friday Fictioneers post and today’s prompt inspired me with a poem of sorts. Many thanks to our patient and inspiring host, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, for shepherding our FF group through green pastures teeming with tales, and to Danny Bowman for the challenging prompt. I see the various muses have been productive even given this barren landscape to write about.

Speaking of productive, I’m delighted to tell you all that my book is published and now live on Amazon! (Fireworks and cartwheels 🙂 )  Silver Morning Song is a collection of poems, short stories and fables. I plan to publish it on Kobo as well; I’ll likely spend today doing that, plus setting up an Author Account on Amazon and generally telling the world. And as all authors will say, I’d really appreciate reviews. 🙂

On to today’s prompt:

Right now we seem to be in a world of unprecedented water and storms; eighty years ago it was unprecedented drought. I’ll dedicate this verse to all the poor inexperienced homesteaders who came to these Great Plains and were advised to deep-plough their fields every fall. Took the ‘Dirty Thirties’ to prove agricultural advisers of the day so wrong. Farmers today practice “no till” farming.

PHOTO © Danny Bowman

BREAKING THE LAND

We said we’d break this land
with hope and bare essentials.
Our ploughs cut deep
furrows across its face —
then we couldn’t catch it.

The wind owns this land,
had we only known!
Tore the dirt from our fields,
dumped it five miles east,
then threw it back at us
in the next west wind.
Our seed grain went with it;
clear to oblivion.

The land froze us in winter,
baked us in summer,
dried us like tumbleweeds in fall
and the wind blew us away.
Through long ragged years
tried to break this land,
‘til the land broke us.

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!

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.”

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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.”

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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.