Daily Prompt: Futures Past/Staying in Focus

Daily Prompt: As a kid what did youwant to be when you grew up?How close or how far are you from that vision?

Oh, the dreams we had in childhood! The other day, my granddaughter (age 8) was talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. She had a list of possibilities including a doctor, an entomologist, a geologist and an archaeologist – all within the realm of possibility, given her abilities and talents.  My grandson (age 5) had much shorter list: either a superhero or a dad. Also in the realm of possibility, as most fathers are superheroes, at least in the eyes of their young children.  The capes begin to get a bit tattered as adolescence takes hold, but the super powers recharge and superdad is back, once they realize that the superhero was right all along.

I, too, had a list of possibilities when I was young. The earliest I can remember considering was being a nun, part of my catholic school indoctrination. I couldn’t get past those habits they wore, though. They were heavy, dark brown, woolen gowns with headpieces that enshrouded their heads completely – all you could see were their faces and hands – everything else was a mystery. We used to wonder what color their hair was, hidden under that headgear. In second grade we had a novice nun, one who had yet to make her final vows. Her name was Sister Annette and she had a head of flaming red hair. Halfway through the school year she was whisked away to make those vows and cover that beautiful hair forever.  How sad! Another minus for the nun choice – you couldn’t have a boyfriend or get married, so by fourth grade this career choice faded away for most of us.

I briefly considered nursing, as I read my way through the Cherry Ames, student nurse books, but all those needles I’d have to stick people with was a turn-off.  I considered archaeology myself, but scorpions and spiders and hot, dusty places were not my favorite things. So I enjoyed the career vicariously through the Amelia Peabody book series about a woman archaeologist in the late 1800s, written by Elizabeth Peters. Just before I started high school, my Aunt Jeannie had a baby boy with Down’s syndrome. She became involved with the March of Dimes campaign to prevent birth defects, and I joined her efforts. This led me to my eventual choice of career in special education.

Also about this time I started writing poetry, and keeping a travel journal of my summer adventures with my family. In high school, I had great fun writing a parody of Moby Dick with my friend, Kathi. This was a class project and our revenge against a vicious literature teacher, who wielded a red pencil on our compositions like a sword, slashing it to bits and pieces. But despite this, I continued to write, took as many lit courses as I could in college, for they were easy As to boost my GPA.

I graduated from college, got married, and one day my husband  and I, both science fiction fans, started discussing some of his ideas in politics and somehow we decided that we could fit this into a science fiction novel.  It was designed to be a trilogy and I did finish the first book, but I got derailed along the way by a couple of kids and a full time job. I submitted it to several publishers without any luck. During this time, however, I began writing articles for magazines, and had some luck in the small press with that. My first published piece was on my experience as an extra in filming the movie, The Handmaid’s Tale, based on the book by Margaret Atwood. The article is on this blog page (see title on heading above). In the meantime, I continued writing and finished a children’s book. I enrolled in creative writing classes and online courses and finally finished and self-published (thank you,  Amazon) another children’s book, Escape from Mount Sanctuary. I began this blog on May 2, 2012, and this is my 253rd  post  on this blog. As they say, the rest is yet to be written…


Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Daily Prompt:

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

Today was another topical prompt for me, and I’ll use it shamelessly as a teaser of things to come. I have just completed the editing (thanks to my editor in chief, Linda) and revising of my book. I plan to take a class in marketing and selling an eBook /POD this month, and hope to have the book ready to go by the end of the six-week class. It is a children’s book, targeted for the middle grade reader, but I think its message is one best heeded by us all.

Imagine a scenario where a cataclysm strikes the earth at some point in the future, and the remnants of humanity have taken sanctuary in caverns deep beneath the surface. Their civilization has thrived for many generations, powered by an array of massive machines, A boy named  Ke, determined to become a storyteller, learns of an “Outside” to his world. His imagination drives him to discover what this “Outside “might look like.  With his elder, friend, Tuck, a girl named Mira and a very special animal companion named Tip, Ke begins his quest, just as the massive machines powering his world begin to fail. His quest now becomes a matter of life and death  for his people…

Imagine if you could discover the world, all over again…

Stay tuned!

(Note: an early version of this book was presented on my Focus On: Fiction blog with the working title: The Storyteller.)

Daily Prompt: Bookworms/Staying in Focus: Books: My Timeline

Daily Prompt: Bookworms:Photographers, artists, poets: show us BOOKS.


Books: A TImeline

Picture books were the seed

Dick and Jane taught me to read

See Dick. Run Jane. See Spot Run.

The Bobbsey Twins were lots of fun

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew

Little Women, Little Men

I really should read them all again.

The Black Stallion books by William Farley

where horses were the heart of the story

The Adventures of Tom Swift swept me away

to places unknown on warm summer days

Ann of Green Gables was a charm

as was Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

and Heidi and Lassie and Peter Pan

friends I would visit again and again

I fell in love with the written word

and with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird

and my all-time favorite heroine

is Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind

not to mention my addiction

to so many books of science fiction

I could go on forever and ever

and never remember all of the treasure

of wonderful books  that have filled my days

with joy and contentment in so many ways

books are among my cherished friends

they bring to me adventure without end

and drama, humor, a touch of mystery

romance, thrillers, Shakespeare, poetry

to read a book engages your mind

the best way of all to pass the time!

-pc 2013

Staying in Focus: A Rainy Saturday Read

Daily Prompt: Three – Tenths:  Staying in Focus:   A Rainy Saturday Read

Scribble down the first ten words that come to mind. Pick three of them. There’s your post title. Now write!  My three words :Saturday, rainy, read

A  Rainy Saturday Read

What to do on a rainy weekend in August? Thanks to Mother Nature, the plants outside do not need watering.  The house could use some cleaning and the laundry needs to be done, but my inclination on such a day is to spend it lost in writing, creating a world of my own imagination,  or being  drawn into the world of someone else’s imagination – in other words, reading a book.

This weekend I just happen to have a new book to read, written by my nephew, Matt Seidel.  Matt has written and told stories since he could talk.  An interesting anecdote comes to mind here. When Matt was little, he didn’t talk much. It seemed like instead of being on output as most people are, Matt chose introspection, taking information in. His parents, though, were concerned and sent him to a speech therapist. I don’t know if it were the sessions he attended with the therapist, or the fact that Matt decided he had taken in enough and was ready now to share his words with the world, but once the floodgates opened, they never closed. Matt wrote stories, told stories, and made up stories on the spot throughout his childhood.  On one visit to our house, he retold the entire Star Wars saga using the army of action figures he had collected. Today, Matt teaches at a community college in Bloomington, Indiana. He is also a musician, video game designer, and now, published author.

This is Matt’s first published novel, entitled Saviors, and I used my rainy Saturday to finish reading the book.  It is one of those books that is hard to put down because the author deftly paces the chapters, revealing  just enough to keep you hungry for more. The story revolves around Tobias,  a  serial killer, who believes he is on a mission assigned him by God , to save the souls of individuals who lack morality (bullies, murderers, a man who beats women, for example) by torturing and killing them. Tobias meets a young woman named Emily, and as he is drawn into her world, he finds himself losing touch with his mission. But circumstances evolve in such a manner that Tobias must ultimately choose between the two. The novel ends with the reader contemplating the question, who are the saviors and who are the monsters? Matt offers interesting insights and raises questions concerning matters of morality, life and death, religious convictions, atheism, justice and ultimately, the condition and salvation of our very souls. I’m not one who can handle torture in any form, but Matt handles the serial killer scenes without resorting to lengthy, gratuitous sessions of violence. In fact, given the subject matter, I was expecting a dark novel of late night shadows and illicit deeds.  Although the book does deal with these dark matters, most of it is spent in the world Tobias is trying to protect and the people  around him who are moral and involved in helping others less fortunate with compassion and sincerity. Tobias is a multi-dimensional character, one I could not completely like or totally condemn.

This book will have readers thinking and book clubs talking long after the coffee and cake are served.  I can’t deny some prejudice in that the author is my nephew, but I know a good read when I read it, and Saviors more than fits the bill. The book will be available on Amazon soon. I’ll keep you posted.

Focus on: Walruses and Whales

I know everyone is anxious to find out what object I’ve chosen to use in some of my photographs on the cruise.  But first, I must fill in some background.  It all begins in high school with an English assignment following our reading of Moby Dick. My friend,  Kathi and I, were in an accelerated English program, which more or less meant that they made it up as the went along.  At the time of this assignment, we were being taught by a student teacher who allowed us to choose whatever we wanted to do for our assignment.

We decided, as the creative geniuses we thought we were, to write a parody of Moby Dick. As crazy as we were creative, we named our book Doby Mick.  Doby Mick being a walrus rather than a mighty whale with an attitude.

Let me preface the following;  This book was  a work of fiction, any resemblance of characters to persons living or dead is purely intentional, I mean, coincidental.

.First, we needed a protagonist and we couldn’t think of anyone more capable of causing agony than our very own lead English teacher.  For with her malicious red pencil she would slash and burn her way through our compositions as if she was leading Sherman’s March through Georgia.  She would then place the offending paper on the overhead projector and it would appear on the wall ten feet tall (or so it seemed to the hapless writer).  The agony would continue as the paper was further critiqued by the erstwhile teacher and the doomed author of the piece longed only for the floor to open and swallow her. Despite her best efforts, however, she did not deter me from writing, as is obvious to anyone reading my posts.

. We named the pencil Herman, and being a pencil, he could write and therefore was chosen to begin the book with the line, “Call me Herman.  Only I have survived to tell thee the tale.”  We chose the name Professor Roberts, later to be known as Captain Roberts for our protagonist and round out the crew, we scrambled the letters in our student teacher’s last name and he became Kokonets Quomodo, the captain’s cannibal friend (more about this later).

The book was exciting and topical, drawing in information learned in our other classes as well.  For instance, the ship was named the Peapod (we were learning about Gregor Mendel, the founder of the study of genetics, and his research cultivating pea plants).  In their quest for Doby Mick, the Peapod comes up against Scylla and Charybdis (Grreek Mythology). and finally,on Shakespeare’s birthday, they encounter Doby Mick. The great battle ensues and  you’d have to read the book to find out how it ends, but suffice it to say you could (If you don’t have a life, that is) read Moby Dick — it’s a close copy.

Unfortunately, one of the writers who shall remain nameless, loaned the only copy of the book  ( Hey, this was 1970, folks, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, in the age before computers, home printers and copy machines.) to a classmate who failed to return it. If anyone out there has that copy write a comment and let me know.  I’d love to have it back,but realize it is probably long gone.  All that remains is our two page synopsis.  Such a loss to the world of literature.

Needless to say, we received an A for our efforts, but were advised to put it in a locked trunk in our attic by our somewhat embarrassed student teacher.  You see, it wasn’t until he was reading parts of our novel out loud to the class that he realized who Kokonets Quomodo was based on. The realization was evident in the flush of red that began at his collar and worked its way up his face.  Thus the” lock it in your attic” comment.  He survived his year with us and actually came back the next year as a fully fledged teacher.  If he could survive us, he could survive anything!

IAnd now for the big reveal,.  If you haven’t guessed already,  Doby Mick himself will accompany me to Alaska.  He wants to meet a humpback whale.  And so do I.

Doby Mick


Focus on: Reflections of a Bibliophile

I’ve mentioned my love of reading in earlier posts, and wanted to explore the topic a bit more..  I don’t remember when my fascination with books first began, but the earliest memory I have of a special book was the Christmas I received The Shirley Temple Treasury.  It was in 1961, according to the date inscribed on the title page in my childish handwriting.  This book contained four stories, including Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and the illustrations were accompanied by pictures from her movies of the same name. As you can see, in the picture above, I still have the book today  Somewhere along the way, the front cover was lost, but I fashioned a new one using the title page, my printer and clear contact paper.

As a child (and even today) I love series books.  You really fall into other worlds when you can read several books with the same characters. I read The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew,, Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and being a science fiction lover,  I read my cousin’s copies of The Adventures of Tom Swift.

As an adult, Star Wars novels  form my largest collection,  followed by the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters, the Dirk Pitt novels by Clive Cussler and I’ve recently discovered the Honor Harrington novels by David Weber. If you are familiar with any of these characters, you can see how eclectic are my tastes, from a woman archaeologist,

My Star Wars Book

circa the early 1900s (Amelia Peabody) to the adventures of an ocean explorer, present day (Dirk Pitt) to a starship commander, future setting (Honor Harrington) and, of course, the ongoing story of the lightsaber wielding Jedi. I routinely scour Amazon for word of a new novel from any of these authors.

My favorite novel of all time is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell I  love strong female characters  and Scarlett O’Hara is certainly that.  I don’t know how many times I’ve read this book, but each time it’s like a visit with old friends.  Recently my husband gave me the ultimate treasure – a two-volume copy of the book, with page edged in gold leaf and an attached ribbon bookmark, gold embossed cover and illustrations. Needless to say, it has become one of my most prized possessions.  My second favorite novel is To Kill A.Mockingbird by Harper Lee, one of the few school assigned novels I really enjoyed reading.  Scout Finch is every inch a strong female character despite her young age.  And my third favorite book is The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter.  This one made me laugh out loud and cry real tears.

When eReaders first appeared on the market at first I wasn’t sure if I would like them.  To me much of the delight in a book is in its actual physical presence.  I like the way they look, the way they smell and the weight of them in my hand.  I also like to see them displayed on our bookshelves.  My husband and I have amassed quite a few books in our 36 years together.  We even bought a library wall complete with a moving ladder to reach the higher shelves.  But the lure of being able to grab a book out of thin air, seconds after I’ve discovered it, and start reading it immediately, is far too strong for a bibliophile like me to resist.  And they are a great alternative to lugging big, heavy books .  I recently downloaded a large photography guide, much easier to include with my camera equipment on my Kindle..  When travelling I can take a variety of books and magazines, all in one slim volume  (and yes, I have a copy of Gone With the Wind on my Kindle).  But I still buy real books.  Sometimes I just miss turning a page.  And a real book never requires recharging!

our library wall

As a parent and an educator, I know the how important an interest in reading is –  reading is the foundation of all learning.  How to interest you’re child in reading?   It’s really very easy.  First of all, give them books as early in their lives as you can.  There are plastic books that can be teethed on, sturdy, chunky cardboard books that can take a lot of punishment.  There are books for the tub, delightful pop-up books to catch a child’s eye, even books with handles for easy toting around.  Second, read to them . Read their books to them, read poetry to them (I love the poems of A.A, Milne).  Read Dr. Suess books to them – the rhythm and rhyme of these books are amazing and the words intriguing, so they easily capture a child’s interest.  Take them to story time at the local library.  The storytellers there are often quite good, and they use puppets and other props to entertain –and it’s free!   And equally important – let them see you reading.  When you make a trip to the library or bookstore, don’t forget to grab a book for yourself.  It doesn’t matter what you read  – cookbooks, magazines, the back of the cereal box,  just let them see you read.  Children imitate their parents and will soon want to figure out the process of reading for themselves.

My daughter-in-law picks me up once a week to spend the day with my grandchildren.  One day I hopped in the car with a book for each of them, and it quickly became a ritual.  When I get in the car now, I hear my little grandson ask, “Grams, do you have a book for me?”  Music to my ears.  If I had only one legacy to leave my grandchildren, it would be the gift of reading and a love of books. With a good foundation in reading, the world is, as the saying goes, their oyster.

I sometimes get frustrated because I fear there is not enough time  in one lifetime to read everything  I want to read. A while back, a friend of mine gave me a bookmark with a quote by Jorge Luis Borges.: I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.  I hope he’s right.  Maybe there will be enough time after all.

Focus on Saturday

I watch as the morning light 
vanquishes the darkness
followed by the sunrise
it beckons forth the nesting birds
inviting them to flight and song
and I am graced with the beauty of another day. 
                                          — pc 2012 

II appreciate all of the seven days that make up a week, but most of all I love Saturdays. (For those of you who must  work on Saturday, just substitute the day of the week you have off as you read this).  I know  for health reasons we are supposed to get up the same time everyday, but  there is no way we’re setting that alarm clock to go off at 5:30 AM on a Saturday morning!

How much better it is  to wake up and see sunlight streaming through the window, beckoning us forth to arise and start the day.   A day that can be anything we want it to be. A Freedom of Choice Day. That’s what makes Saturdays special.  The freedom to choose how to spend the day, no deadlines or time clocks, schedules or meetings.

One of my favorite things to do after I wake up on Saturdays, is just stay there in bed for a while and read!  Since reading is one of my favorite past times, browsing the bookstore is a  Saturday activity I really enjoy. Unfortunately, I do have to impose a time limit here, because otherwise, I’d still be there when the sun sets!  So my husband drags me out of the store, and I go home, get a glass of lemonade and head to the porch where a lounge chair awaits, and I check out my treasures.

Although I could  happily spend  the day this way, there are other things calling to me .  My camera sits lonesome, its empty viewfinder waiting for something interesting to fill it.  There is that scrapbook I’m working on, a painting I’ve started,  a poem to write, my garden to play in, a walk to take around the neighborhood with my husband, or perhaps a longer hike around a nearby lake, or the Hemlock Bluffs not far from our house. Now that walking is easier for me, I want to enjoy it while I can.

The great thing about Saturdays is that, although the activities you can do are many, you don’t have to do them if you don’t want to.  You can pick and choose as the spirit moves you.  Saturday is a great day to meet a friend for lunch, or indulge yourself with a manicure or even a massage.  The possibilities are endless.   Unfortunately, Saturdays are not.  A mere 24 hours, some of them spent sleeping, and before you know it, it’s gone – for six long days.

So I would like to make a proposal to Congress, to discard Wednesday,and call it Saturday A, followed by Saturday B in its regular spot in the line-up..  Wouldn’t it be great to have a Saturday in the middle of the week?  Of course, given the name  Saturday, it would carry the same privileges as Saturday B  — a  Freedom of Choice Day.  You can work if you want to.  Or you can chill out at home and barbecue some burgers for lunch. It would be nicely balanced with 2 workdays before, and 2 after.  And you’d have three days off if you so choose.  Remember, Saturdays are Freedom of Choice Days, so it’s up to you (and your boss).

However, if Wednesday holds a nostalgic place in your hearts (kind of like Pluto), we could follow the Beatles and have Eight Days A Week.  There would still be 3 days off, but you’d  have to work 5.  Most employers will opt for this one, I think.

We’d have to get the rest of the world behind this one or air travel would become more convoluted than it already is.  And we’d  have to redo our calendars. It’s a good thing the Mayan calendar runs out in December. That one would be a dog to reconfigure.  Unless they already have two Saturdays a week. They were very smart, you know..

But who would turn down two Saturdays a week? Should be an easy sell

Now, I know Congress can do this because they’ve already been messing around with time, making us change our clocks on arbitrary days,,  to move the daylight around for whatever reason.  I suspect it’s so they have time for a round of golf after a hard day of failing to pass any meaningful legislation, (but that’s another post for another time).

So let’s give Wednesday the boot! Or add an extra day to the week.  I’m up for either choice.  Write your congressmen!  Consult the Mayans.  Then grab a book and join me on the porch.  The lemonade is cold.  Bring some burgers.!