That’s the Breaks, Kid

 

Sam greets visitors to Huntsville, Texas

Spring break! That fabulous time of year in southeastern Texas when spring has sprung, flowers are flowering, and it is still cool enough to go outside past 9:00 AM. But what does this have to do with writing?

I’m glad you asked. Are you looking for a fresh idea to get out of the dull winter doldrums? Go on a road trip. Museums hold many a mystery and interesting artifact for non-fiction writers, and story prompts about for novelists and short story writers. Mystery Domino

 

Why did Sam Houston’s first wife leave him after a mere eleven weeks of marriage? He took that secret to his grave, but it could make an interesting historical fiction. Who left the mysterious double five domino, stamped with the Huntsville State Prison logo in a holding cell in Harris WP_20160319_051County? What, if anything, did it mean? Secret message, or simple Rawr!mistake? Dinosaur tracks, right here in Texas? Indeed. How were they formed, and who found them? Young readers love dinosaurs! Who were some of the colorful characters during the heyday of the Ft. Worth Stockyards? Maybe you could borrow one or two for the hero or villain in your wild west romance. Did you know there was such an adorable thing as a tree kangaroo? Picture book! Was there really a mysterious character on the grassy knoll? The Sixth Floor Museum may spark some ideas for an alternative history novel.

Tree Kangaroo

Grassy KnollSpring break has passed? No worries. Stay local – there’s bound to be something nearby that you haven’t seen before. Take pictures. Take notes. And limber up your typing fingers!

Happy Leap Day/ List Day

time management threeBy Ellen Leventhal

The writer’s life and time management. Unfortunately, these two don’t always go together well. At least not for me. I’m sure I’m not alone in my wish for more hours in the day. Does anyone else end their days staring at the ceiling, ticking off all the tasks you did NOT get done that day? Please tell me it’s not just me!

So how happy am I that there is a full extra day this month? VERY happy. Surely, I will use this day to check things off my list. There aren’t that many things, right? I can do this! Here we go:

  1. Send poetry to that magazine.
  2. Dig out the email that tells me the name of the magazine.
  3. Type out texts of picture books to work on pacing.
  4. Go to the library and check-out said picture books.
  5. Begin work on that new website I’ve been talking about for years.
  6. Find someone to help me do that.
  7. Walk around the block. Sitting all day is bad for you.
  8. Finish three critiques.
  9. Call Comcast so I can get online to pull up the stories to critique.
  10. Re-write that short story in picture book format.
  11. Re-write that picture book manuscript into short story format.
  12. Have lunch!
  13. Stop at the Galleria after lunch to pick up those cute clothes for grandkids.
  14. Text daughters-in-law and double check sizes.
  15. Reply to store’s request for more books. Yes, the reissue of that book will be out by summer.
  16. Nag anyone who is responsible for getting the new book out.
  17. Have dinner.
  18. Climb into bed and tick off every item I did not accomplish. Sigh….

Sometimes it’s time management issues. Sometimes it’s computer issues. And sometimes life interferes with the best laid plans. But I will take this extra day for something. Even if it means counting my blessings because, although the book deals aren’t rolling in, a lot of other great things are.

Happy Leap Day, everyone! Use it to do what makes your happy.

 

 

Are You Feeling the Love?

By Ellen Leventhal

broken-heart-1316091

Here we are. It’s Valentine’s Day. Street corners are crowded with vendors selling roses and balloons. Throngs of last minute shoppers are mowing down each other vying for that last box of chocolates. Come on, folks! It’s just a day.  But I get it. It’s hard to resist a fluffy rabbit holding a sign that says “Some Bunny Loves You.”  But our loved ones  know we love them all year around. Or at least they should. So I decided this year that I wouldn’t feed into the hoopla.  Sure, I’d get everyone a card, but the hoopla? Not me.

But then there were puppies. Real puppies asking to be adopted for Valentine’s day. Stuffed puppies calling out for cuddles from behind a stack of bananas at the grocery store. And all those “Dog Gone It…Be My Valentine!” puppies next to the cough medicine at Walgreens. How much can a person take?

I know it’s just a Hallmark holiday. But now I’m thinking. What harm will it do to have some fun? If a yellow marshmallow Peep is ok for Easter, why not a giant pink cookie for Valentine’s Day?

However, not everyone has a Valentine. Some people dread this day. Holidays are not always easy. Society wants us to wear red and smile today. But that’s not the reality for everyone.

So here’s my suggestion. Sure, give gifts and chocolates if it makes you happy. But try to do more. Let’s make sure that today is not just about our loved ones and chocolate hearts. Let’s make this a day of kindness. Kindness to those we know and those we don’t. Reach out to everyone today. It doesn’t take a lot to smile, open a door, or say thank you.  Of course, we should do that every day, but sometimes we need a reminder. So this year, let’s celebrate “Kindness Day.”

Keeping that in mind,  I have to give props to the Space City Scribes. I thank my SCS buddies for all the help they give me. They even put up with my technical ineptitude. Thanks, guys!   And of course, this group of dynamic women  write a pretty awesome anthology! (Like that segue?)

So,  to those inclined, check out First Last Forever. It’s a group of stories about disastrous first dates. They are sweet, funny, and even a bit devilish.  We hope you like them. And if you do, we’d love a review! 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01AEDZFMK?keywords=first+last+forever&qid=1452800466&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8

FLF hands FINAL

I wish all our readers a wonderful day with or without stuffed animals. Reach out to someone new, compliment someone, and smile at a stranger. And go ahead and eat some chocolate if you’d like.

For now, I’m off to my son’s house. How can my granddaughter survive without a stuffed dinosaur telling her she is “Dino-mite”?

Happy Kindness Day!

 

 

 

 

 

What’s On Your Backpack?

By Ellen Rothberg

Backpacks are icons of personalities. One would never consider carrying a backpack emblazoned with a picture or caricature of something or someone they were not connected to in some shape or form. The advent of the backpack is a real nineties phenomenon, one that obviously earned tons of money for an industry previously employed by Colorado hikers. Have you ever thought about what we carried our books around in before the big backpack bang? I had a red rubber book band. It had two metal doohickey things on the ends that sort of connected to each other and tried to keep the books sort of together, but didn’t actually work well in the New York winters. It didn’t help that I had a pretty long walk to and from school in those cold winter months either because the red rubber band invariably froze and disintegrated on the long, snow-laden treks home. This musing is not, however, actually about my school experience or how I managed those miles and miles of walking in the snow . . . it is about the backpack phenomenon and how each generation is characterized by the apparatus chosen to, well, lighten the load that students have to bear.

Back in the nineties, my children were introduced to backpacks depicting the Transformers and Strawberry Shortcake. There might have been a Batman one school year and I think we might have done Barbie once. There were Nike bags when in middle school and cartoon characters were no longer cool. We had a Jansport era in high school, I think. I can visualize the many backpacks, but there are no photos of them. I don’t think that we record those items the way we do Halloween costumes and holiday sweaters. If I were to ask my son and daughter to name their favorite backpack, I know they would give me that look. The one that says, “Oh, she’s writing something about us” or “Oh, she’s about to remind us of the trials of growing up in an apartment with only one bathroom”. This musing is not, however, actually about my children’s school experience or how their backpacks defined or didn’t define their school success, popularity or ability to roll their eyes at things their mother says. . . it is bout the backpack phenomenon and how each generation is characterized by the heavy-duty canvas surrounding their load of books.

Now tht I have a grandchild, I know that the backpack phenomenon is coming full circle. Will students really contiune to need backpacks? After all, one only needs to have a small tablet computer, right? Do kids really need a whole backpack just to carry their electronic device to school? The answer is a resounding YES! The backpack is here to stay. My precious granddaughter, age 4 1/2 has three current backpacks. The first was purchased at her birth and has the beautifully embroidered words “Aggie Class of 2033” underneath her name (courtesy of her Texas A & M parents). The second one came from Pottery Barn Kids and also has her name embroidered on it (a very Twenty-First Century thing). The third one and her favorite, was purchased at Walmart and has the cartoon character Sofia the First beautifully screen printed across it. It ranks up there with the Strawberry Shortcake and Transformer ones. This musing is not, however, actually about my granddaughter’s school experience or how the more things change the more they stay the same. . . it is about how each generation is cherished by the ones that came before and how, when you get right down to it, we will always be carrying something to school in something that is popular at the moment. Oh, and that we love grandchildren!

And . . .speaking about books, Come out and Celebrate Local Authors at the Maud Marks Library, 1815 Westgreen Blvd., Katy, Texas on Saturday, October 24, 2015 fom 12:30 PM — 5:00 PM. Mingle with local authors of children’s and adult books. Books can be purchased and autographed. The library will also host presenters reading excerpts from a variety of genres. Attendees are eligible for door prizes! Come in costume for a bonus door prize ticket!

Carl, the Vegetarian Vampire

by Artemis Greenleaf

Click here to see me in the Kindle store!

Click here to see me in the Kindle store!

No, he doesn’t sparkle.

Carl is a friendly vampire – he only drinks the synthetic blood (“synth”) invented by his hero, scientist Dr. Theo Tamas (Extra Iron flavor is his favorite!). But Carl has a problem. His dad desperately wants to be a real estate agent, but he can’t, because people don’t shop for houses at night. So he works at a warehouse job he hates, just to keep his family in synth. If he quits his job, there will be no more synth, and Carl will be forced to become a scary vampire, and lose his best friend, human Alex, forever. But not to worry – Carl has a plan.

In addition to Carl’s tale, I added his bat friends, Dari (short for tadarida braziliensis, or Mexican free-tailed bat) and Foxy (macrobats, or fruit bats, are commonly called flying foxes) on each page. If you double tap Dari or Foxy, they’ll share a fun bat fact with you. I thought I knew a lot about bats, but I learned so much more about them doing this research!

If you would like to read some of the amazing bat articles and resources that I found, visit my Pinterest page. There are a few other things there, as well.

 

What Vacation Type Are You?

By Ellen Rothberg

I’m on vacation. I have been on vacation since July 1. It’s an experimental vacation, as my husband calls it, because he is working, remotely, from our vacation spot in Vail, Colorado. Working remotely, is a new phenomenon brought on by smart phones, computers and other electronic geniuses we now possess. I am not working remotely, unless you consider trying to orchestrate the movements of the people in my life that I left behind in Houston. Electronic gadgets do not work quite as well for my purposes as they do for my husband’s. His experiment has been a limited success. Mine, not so much.

So, why when I left the heat of Texas for the beautiful, coolness of Colorado, am I not considering the experimental vacation a success? Well, there are several reasons, most of them pretty reasonable. Let me share them in no particular order:

  1. I have an elderly mother, well taken care of, but still pretty dependent on me for social interaction. .Unfortunately, she often thinks that close friends and family are out to get her. This leaves me to smooth over the hard feelings and try to help her reframe the misconceptions. This feat, despite being a mental health professional, is often too much for me at home, let alone from 1000 miles away.
  2. Colorado is a young, vibrant, fitness-minded, outdoorsy place. I am not young, vibrant, fitness-minded or outdoorsy. I will not wake up one morning and say to myself, “I can’t wait to go on a five mile hike at 8200 feet above sea level”. I live the other eleven months of the year in a city at or below sea level. My lungs can’t take the altitude change and anyone who’s ever been to Houston knows there is nothing to hike up to. This is not to say that I can’t enjoy a nice walk by a babbling creek in 65-70 degree weather in July. I am just not going to dream about it.
  3. One of my children is about to be married. The wedding is two weeks after I return home. I think that anybody who has ever been even remotely involved in the planning of a wedding knows what I am thinking. Enough said!
  4. I am one of  number of education professionals who have some part of the summer off from work. I won’t get into the debate about how educators have the whole summer off or how we are paid enough for the job we do. I will only say that my school year kicks off on August 10, the week after my return from the month long experimental vacation in Colorado.
  5. Oh, did I mention that my month long vacation in Colorado took place in a fancy condo rental? Yes, it is beautiful, but I still did laundry, dishes, cooking (OK, not that much cooking), and cleaning up. The hourly rates to have the condo cleaned on a daily basis was more than I make per hour as an education professional. Oh, I forgot, I wasn’t going to talk about that.

What is my ideal vacation? One where I sit on the beach, holding my second or third frosty rum or tequila concoction of the day as natives serenade me with whatever island specialty tunes they choose to play that day. Oh, and where the trials and tribulations of my real life back home take care of themselves for the time I am gone.