Monday, December 21, 2009

Excellent Short Biography of Alfred the Great

Benjamin Merkle makes Alfred the Great come alive. I knew very little about the “White Horse King” before reading this biography. Although, I'm not a fan of the retelling of ancient battles, these were interesting and led to the proposition that Alfred was more than a warrior. I didn't realize until I read this book how wide spread the Viking incursions into England were and the part Alfred played in keeping the Saxon heritage safe.

I found the description of Alfred's innovations in learning and in the defense of his country very interesting reading. Clearly what Alfred was able to do and the success he achieved say that his innovations were extremely important. Apparently we are the beneficiaries of these practices today.

I was particularly fascinated by his conversion of Guthrum. While it may seem incredible, it appears that Guthrum did indeed embrace Christianity and become an ally of Alfred. It's an excellent example of how we should treat our enemies. I found the devote part of Alfred's character the most interesting in someone living in that time period. It must have been a great temptation to deliver the fatal blow and be done with it, rather than wondering whether Guthrum would be true to his pledges.

Altogether an excellent read about a time in history that I, for one, little understood.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Teaching Toddlers to Read by Kathy Sempke

Learning language skills starts at birth. Children are naturally interested in mimicking sounds and words. In fact, children develop much of their capacity for reading in the first three years of life, when their brains grow to 90% of their adult weight. When parents sing, talk and read to their kids, brain cell links are strengthened and new ones are formed. These links are the basis for the development of all language skills.

Reading aloud to your child helps him to learn the correct way to read. By hearing you read the words on the page and sound them out, he learns that letters make words, and words make sentences, and sentences are how we communicate with each other. There are many activities that will make reading fun, and help to keep the toddler engaged in reading.

  1. Use musical instruments to create suspense, or silliness.

  2. Have the children act out what you read

  3. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story.

  4. Ask your child questions about the story. Reading comprehension is one of the hardest things to teach a child if it doesn't come naturally to him.

  5. Do a fun activity after you finish the book that relates to the book in some way. For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. Punch two holes on either side of each can, near the bottom. Measure a piece of rope so it is the appropriate length for children. Thread one end of the rope into each hole and secure with a knot.

  6. Reading to your child on a regular basis will give him an appreciation and respect for reading. If reading is important to you, it will become important to your child.

  7. Here's a fun sight word game called, "Stinky Cheese." Cut triangles out of yellow construction paper. On 20 triangles write sight words that you want to practice. On 5 triangles write "stinky cheese." Put the triangles in a sack and shake them up. The toddler pulls out a triangle. The child reads the sight word on his cheese. If he chooses "stinky cheese," he holds his nose and says, "Stinky cheese!" in a silly voice.

  8. Toddlers also learn quickly with hands on activities. Make clay out of flour, salt, and warm water. Form a large A, small a, and apple out of the clay. After the letters and apple dry have fun painting them and practice the letter sounds by singing silly songs. Take turns thinking of a word that begins with that letter/ sound. For example: say "A is for a a a a aaaaligator." You'll be surprised what words the toddler will come up with. Your toddler will be proud of the letters he makes and will want to show them to everyone.

  9. Another great way to teach a toddler letter sounds is to make a personalized book. Take a photo of the toddler with food that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Paste the picture on top of an 8"-11" piece of paper. Under each picture with large letters write, Aa Brian eats an apple, Bb- Brian eats a banana, Cc- Brian eats a carrot, etc.

  10. Most toddlers are physically active and love to move. Take advantage of this natural trait by moving to short rhymes that introduce letter sounds. Kathy Stemke’s book, Moving Through All Seven Days, inspires movement as children learn about the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

Book available on lulu:

Sign up for a free monthly Movement and Rhythm Newsletter on Kathy’s blog:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meet Deborah Weed

Deborah Weed has had an extensive thirty-year career in marketing/entertainment that has included everything from being: Director of Marketing for Fame International responsible for a 26 million-dollar pavilion; Director of Development for Citibank; Creator/Producer of “Sensations”; “The Disappearance of Dino Dinero”; “The Sticky Bun Bandits”; “Compassionate Chip Cookies & Milk,” etc. . .

A life threatening health challenge redirected Weed’s life. She got stuck and realized that people defined her by the circumstances, rather than by a lifetime of experiences. After regaining her mojo, Weed decided to leap into the world of writing, inspirational speaking and coaching so that she could provide a shortcut for others who are experiencing disappointment and feeling misunderstood.

The Luckiest Penny,” is Weed’s first book. “The Luckiest Penny” is the story of two rare 1943 pennies. One penny remains out of circulation, full of himself and selfish, caring only about how much money he is worth. The other penny decides to experience living and along the way discovers what really matters in life.

This book was written to give children a healthy set of values that will assist them on their journey in life. I want them to remember what is really important so that they don’t get discouraged by life’s ups and downs,” said Weed. The book’s genre is a fable/allegory and the illustrations by Ernest Socolov, transport the reader into the alternative world of a penny who is tarnished and yet loved!

An all original, musical interactive production is being created and produced for “The Luckiest Penny.” The show should be ready in November.

Weed is currently working on: a second children’s book with collaborator Ellen Brazer; a book that shares her father’s wisdom (The working title is “Dancing on my Father’s Shoes) and a social network to help people of all ages and background get unstuck.

Weed is also an award-winning artist. Water sculptures are the primary medium for her mixed media pieces. The result is a salubrious technique that takes color into a new arena of purity that is vivid, fluid and alive. Residing in trendy South Beach is my inspiration. The vibe here is bold and daring and my studio is literally on the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. According to my collectors, my work titillates the senses and is very sensual.

Born and raised in Miami, Weed is blessed with a loving family and friends that are her champions.

I asked Deborah some questions:

1.The Lucky Penny is your first book. I see that you're working on another project. Please tell us a little about your new book and why you chose to write it.

My upcoming book will be about the stellar advice that my dad gave me when I was stuck in my own life. The working title is How to Pet a Sometimes Ornery, Sometimes Joyful, and Sometimes Just Confused Dinosaur--or How to Channel Your Emotions. I realize that there are so many people who need practical wisdom and my dad spoke about: why positive thinking doesn’t always work; why a catalyst can never be removed from a formula; why relationships are like bridges/streets; why disappointment is so immobilizing, etc. My life condition elevated because of his insight. I can’t wait to inspire others in the same manner. I’ve been on both sides of the coin, so to speak.

2.What is most important to you about your writing?

Nancy, my motivation behind writing is always to touch hearts. When I was with companies and had a big budget, I could impress with a spectacle. It took a big challenge in my life to realize that what really matters is the connection and love we share with each other. You will find that everything that I am working on now is in alignment with what Mother Teresa said, “We can do no great things--only small things with great love!”

3.What do you like least about writing?

In reality, I am not a writer per se. What I am is a storyteller. It is so easy for me to create a produce a theatrical experience. Even composing music comes easy. There are so many stories that I can’t wait to share. It’s just a matter of priorities for now.

4.I see that you are also an artist. Does your art influence your writing?

YES! Here is an interesting story that not too many people know. When I first started my art career (even though I’ve been an artist my whole life), I was told to paint my angst on canvas. I was assured that this would bring in the greatest fiscal rewards. It was impossible for me to do. What I wanted to capture was bliss. I lived a real life filled with disappointments, it was time to concentrate on my bles

sings. My artwork has really resonated with a lot of people and is selling even in this market. What I’ve learned is that you MUST be true to yourself.

5.What advice can you give to aspiring writers.

I would caution anyone to write because they think it is lucrative. Although this is cliche and we already know this, as Joseph Campbell said: “Follow your bliss.” If you have a burning passion and have a voice that needs to be heard, the world will conspire to help you! However, if you write and yet have seri

ous doubts about your message, then your journey might be to simply believe in yourself again. Either way, jump in and write. Life is about experimentation and if you listen, you’ll find your way.

6.You have started a Ning group. Can you tell us a little about it? Why you decided to do it? What success you've had in using it? Any suggestions for someone interested in starting a ning group?

Originally, I started the Ning group to promote my book and to promote the VBT writers group. Yet, I was called to change directions. I decided to create a place to exchange inspirations and encouragement. My vision is that someone, somewhere needs to hear just the right words and a group of writers, if they write from their hearts, can inspire that person. I’m sure it will evolve as I go.

As far as success using it, I have heard from all of you and the connection is growing stronger. In this instance, that is the success I am looking for. Since my artwork is taking off in such a big fashion, I am considering creating another site to promote it. I just want the process to be organic.

I don’t have any specific suggestions for someone interested in starting a Ning group, but to have a vision of how and why you want to connect to others. I’d be happy to guide anyone who is interested.

Deborah's Book "The Luckiest Penny"

What inspired you to write The Luckiest Penny?

I wanted to remind myself, children and everyone else that life has its ups and downs. Yet, we have a choice. Either we can stay in a box and avoid life's disappointments--or we can jump into life. Obstacles will appear and here is where self-worth comes in. . .The only way to believe in ourselves is to keep on standing back up!

Why did you use 1943, pure copper pennies, as your main characters?

If you have a 1943, pure copper penny in your purse it could be worth $83,000 or more. Can you believe it? A lowly penny, that was made by mistake during WWII, is very valuable. When I was stuck in bed with a misdiagnosed, life-threatening illness, I felt pretty worthless. When I heard about the 1943 penny, I found my metaphorical hero!

What is your goal?

This book was written to give children a healthy set of values that will assist them on their journey in life. I want them to remember what is really important so that they don’t get discouraged by life’s roller-coaster ride.

What is the theme of The Luckiest Penny?

The book’s genre is a fable/allegory. There are a couple of central messages in the book: why experience is more valuable than money; how love makes us all whole, and why it doesn’t matter how much something costs but what it is worth to us.

Could you tell us about the illustrations?

The illustrations by Ernest Socolov, transport the reader into the alternative world of a penny who is tarnished and yet loved!

You said that you are going to be producing musical productions.

YES! An all original, musical interactive production is being created and produced for The Luckiest Penny. The show should be ready in November 2009! The original songs are fun and yet meaningful. I will be working with foundations, schools, fairs, etc. to perform the production and then talk about what it means to us.

Could you tell us about your background?

I have an extensive thirty-year marketing/entertainment career in which I have been in the corporate sector; a creator and producer of children’s musical productions; a public speaker; an author, and of course, an award winning artist.

Contact Information:


Monday, October 26, 2009

vbt's First Anniversary

Next month, VBT – Writers on the Move is having its ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!

To celebrate this accomplishment, we are having a STUPENDOUS Blogaversary Tour!

Daily postings and daily prizes! But, that's not all, we're still having our Mystery Site Giveaway: the Anniversary PRIZE is a $25 (US) GIFT CARD.

Visit the VBT – Writers on the Move blogsite for all the details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview on the Author's Show

Don McCauley interviewed me for the Author's Show on my latest book, Unwelcome Guest at Fair Hill Farm. Stop in and listen if you have a chance.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Read about the 2009 Muse Conference

The Muse Conference is over for another year, but it'll be back in 2010. Karen has a great article on the vbt blog. Go read about the conference, register, and get ready for next year. It was a great experience!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MA of YA does it made a differenct?

parents and their children reading the bible

I'm not sure an age distinction on novels makes a great deal of sense. Yes, I suppose it's important to let parents and teachers know that the reading level is appropriate and there is no grossly inappropriate content. However, I find that adults are as drawn to good YA and MA novels as kids. I also know from my own experience that reading adult novels is not limited to those over the age of twenty-one. I read War and Peace and Anna Karenina when I was ten. I'm not sure I understood all the emotion, but I loved the descriptions and the language.

In summary, I guess it's important to have categories, but they shouldn't constrain people from their interests. That includes adults as well as children!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Synopsis of Steven Tremp's Thriller - Breakthrough

In a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life.

A group of graduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have stolen a breakthrough in opening and stabilizing Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes, as they are commonly known, that allows them to instantly transport people from one location to another. Their goal is to assassinate any powerful politician and executive controlling the world’s banking system that would use this technology for their own greedy gain rather than the advancement of mankind.

Meanwhile, in south Orange County, California, young Chase Manhattan, part of a new breed of modern-day discovery seekers, seeks to leave behind his life of danger and adventure and settle down as an associate professor of physics at University of California-Irvine. He also desires to build a lasting relationship with a beautiful girl he has not seen since high school.

But within days, he uncovers the diabolical scheme on the other side of the country and finds himself the one person who can prevent more murders from happening and ultimately destroy the technology. However, once the MIT group realizes Chase and his friends have the ability and motivation to not only take the breakthrough technology from them, but also thwart more killings, Chase soon finds himself in their crosshairs, the latest target on their list of assassinations.

As the death toll mounts, Chase and his friends must battle this group of ambitious graduate students from MIT on both coasts and in cyberspace in a desperate race to control or destroy this breakthrough that threatens to drastically change life as we know it.

Breakthrough, the first book in the Adventures of Chase Manhattan series, begins with a bang and offers the audience exciting, new, and diverse heroes and villains. The result is a fresh suspense thriller series integrating elements of greed, betrayal, passion, lust, unconditional love, coming of age, and hope. The action is swift, and there are numerous twists and turns that will keep the reader turning the pages and wanting more.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Meet Steven Tremp

Stephen Tremp was born in Marshall, Michigan, in 1962. He is the third out of four children of Duane and Joyce Tremp. When he was five, his family moved to Grand Ledge, ten miles to the west of the capital city of Lansing. Stephen attended Holbrook Elementary, Beagle Middle School, and Grand Ledge High School. He always dreamed of writing and enrolled in numerous English and writing courses throughout high school and junior college.

After living in Houston, Texas, for one year when he was nineteen, Stephen moved back to Lansing, Michigan, briefly a year before moving to Orange County, California, where he has lived ever since. He met his wife, Deena, and married her in October 1996 in an outdoor ceremony in Dana Point, California, high up on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They have two children and a Yorkie. Stephen had to make a very difficult decision and give away his beloved parrot, Pepper, a nanday conure, when the children were born.

Stephen attended Golden West and Orange Coast junior colleges before finishing his undergraduate degree with the University of Phoenix with a B.A. in information systems. After a two-year hiatus, he went back to the University of Phoenix, where he earned an MBA degree in global management. He is currently completing his doctorate program in business administration with the University of Phoenix.

Stephen spent over ten years in consumer finance for some of the largest companies in the industry, holding numerous management positions and often working over 60 hours a week. He has also worked as a classroom and online instructor, facilitating various courses in the field of Project Management.

After many years of writing short stories and poems—when he could squeeze in the time—Stephen has taken the last two years off to fulfill his lifelong passion: write and publish Breakthrough, the first installment of the Chase Manhattan trilogy. He has four more suspense thrillers to follow. Stephen receives his inspiration from some of his favorite authors: the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child tandem, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, among others.

Stephen has identified two charities to donate proceeds from his books: The Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

I asked Steven some questions.

What or whom inspires you to write?

I just see life and all of my experiences as one continuous action suspense story just waiting to be transferred to paper. I see “what if” scenarios throughout the day, regardless of where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with.

Although I’m a bit of an introvert, I’m very passionate about developing “what if” scenarios. I can relate to the Drew Carey’s show Whose Line Is It Anyway? an improvisational comedy show. Give me a simple “what if” scenario, and I can develop it into an action suspense trilogy that will keep the reader up late at night, turning the pages.

I draw much inspiration from Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Stephen King, and the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child tandem. I read a lot of fiction thrillers and felt I needed to identify a unique niche market that a large segment of the population could identify with and get excited about.

I think I’ve found it in a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, and breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life. I believe I’ve found my calling, my gift to the world.

How did you get started?

I accepted a voluntary layoff after toiling over 10 years in the banking and finance industry and took advantage of the opportunity to write full-time.

Breakthroughs in physics and technology are broadcast into millions of homes via numerous cable channels in layman’s terms and computer graphics anyone can understand. I thought I would capitalize on this particular niche and incorporate them into an action thriller series weaving together breakthroughs in physics and technology with greed, murder, and mayhem. Will these breakthroughs benefit mankind and be used to further civilization, or will they be stolen and used for greedy gain? I think we know the answer. That’s why the world needs a hero like my protagonist Chase Manhattan.

What did you find to be the most frustrating step/process of getting your first novel published?

I signed a non-exclusive contract with iUniverse, who was acquired by AuthorHouse. During the transition, much information was lost and it took about two or three additional months to bring Breakthrough to market. iUniverse (really, AuthorHouse) originally sent my unedited draft off to print. Can you imagine my response when I received the (ahem) final product? This was just the beginning of a series of comedies of errors.

But iUniverse has terrific customer service. They fixed everything in a timely manner. So some of the sting of their mistakes (which were many) were soothed by awesome customer service reps.

Do you have an agent? If yes, how long did it take for you to find one?

I do not currently have an agent, but I am actively pursuing one. I use Publisher’s Marketplace, a site to look for reputable agents and view deals they have made over the past couple years.

It took about three months of receiving feedback from various sources before I felt my query letter was professional. I even had my editor / proofreader go over it. I now understand why, after my initial effort of sending out my query letter, I received rejection for every one.

I feel much more confident today and have just this past week sent out about 50 query letters to specific agents. I’m expecting big things in the near future.

How long did it take for you to write Breakthrough?

Two years from start to finish. I thought I could accomplish everything in about eight months. But after the first editing/proof reading, I realized I still had a lot of research to perform and character development to perform. Then I had a second editor / proof reader go over the entire manuscript a second time. This was money well spent.

Are your characters based on yourself or anyone else you know?

The protagonist, Chase Manhattan (I may have to change his name to Chase Hawkings) is loosely based on me, only he’s a little bit taller than I am, a little bit better looking, a little faster, stronger, smarter, and much richer.

The rest of the good guys (and girls) and bad guys (and girls) are partialy made up and partially based on people I’ve known throughout my life.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Honestly, I don’t suffer from writer’s block, although there are times when I do write, I can’t use the material because it lacks substance or excitement. So I save the material and revisit the snipits in the future. I have a junkyard of sorts, and if I need a part, I go to my junkyard, grab what I need, then polish, refine it, and insert it.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

I really don’t struggle very much as I love what I do. I love performing due diligence in my research. Much of the two years I spent writing Breakthrough was devoted to researching the latest and greatest in the realm of physics.

I also had to research the Boston and Cambridge, MA area via the Internet as well as Boston police procedures. I also use Google Earth and yearly weather reports to describe a particular area. Honestly, there is so much information available at my fingertips, the biggest struggle I have is sorting through the wealth of information and eliminating relevant data.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get a book published?

The number one piece of advice I can give an aspiring author is to budget money for a competent editor / proofreader. Even editors who want to write and publish a book need an editor. This is the biggest, and one of the easiest, mistakes an author can make.

Editors / proof readers are vital to your success. Vital is an appropriate word. It means: necessary for life. Don’t try to go it alone, even if you call yourself an editor. You need that second set of eyes to look over your manuscript before you forward it on for printing.

You’re only as good as your editor / proof reader. Perception is reality, and the person buying your book will be the ultimate judge, not you, the author. I can say this with confidence, and hope to convince everyone I can to find a way to budget for a quality editor / proof reader.

Most editors / proof readers will review your first 10 pages for free. I’m confident even the most experienced writers will be amazed at the results. Do what I did; pay for a few pages here, a few chapters there. Before you know it, your entire manuscript will be transformed into a work of art.

Please share with us your latest work-in-progress.

I am currently writing the next two installments of the Breakthrough trilogy entitled Opening and Escalation. These two books will pick up where Breakthrough left off and take the story on an international level. The setting is the United States, China, and the Middle East.

These next books are very exciting as I use more discoveries and breakthroughs in physics in these books. Its too early to give away anything from these books, but for those who read Breakthrough, they will have a pretty good idea what direction Opening and Escalation will go.

What’s awesome for me is that I do not have to not have to set my stories centuries in the future and use characters with pointy ears. Since mankind is on the cusp of discoveries and breakthroughs in just about every facet of our lives, I can use our modern day setting and not have to resort to using a science fiction genre.

I’m also outlining an eerie Stephen King-type thriller entitled Murcat Manor set in Michigan.

Where can people buy your book?

Readers can visit my blog site at

Currently, Breakthrough can be purchased through traditional retailers. Currently, Breakthrough is cheapest though Barnes and Nobel, but can also be purchases through Amazon, Borders Books and Music, and Target.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are You a Real Writer?

Side profile of a boy sitting in a classroom

Recently, I had a rather startling experience. One of the writer's groups I belong to wanted people who had been published to sign up as “Published Authors.” I checked out the criteria and discovered, to my surprise, that the only criteria for becoming a”Published Author” was having an advance from a publisher. This seemed a rather narrow criterion, so I asked the person in charge if I was reading it correctly. I was assured that I was, and further, this meant anyone published by a small publisher, ebook publisher, self-published, or unlucky enough to have a NY publisher who didn't give advances, wasn't a “Published, or Real, Author.”

This experience led me to ask the question: What makes you identify yourself as a real writer? There are many criteria. Do you have to have a NY publisher? I know several people who don't feel like “real writers” unless they have a “Big Publisher.” At the present time, many big publishers are in deep financial trouble. They're consolidating, dropping publishing lines, mid-list authors, editors and generally trying to downsize. I applaud these moves from an economic perspective, but is this a criteria we should tie our understanding of ourselves to?

If you're published by a small publisher, are you a “Real Writer?” Many small publishers have excellent lists. Sometimes they publish, and have in the past published, outstanding novels that didn't fit the mainstream publishers. Classics have come from small publisher imprints. Are some of our best writers not "Read Writers," because they took a chance on what they wanted to write rather than on what a publisher thought would sell?

Ebooks are taking the world by storm. While sales of hardback and paperback books are declining, the sale of ebooks last quarter was up by 134 percent. Admittedly, they had a smaller base to work from, but to me, it's a sign of the times. The champions of ebooks aren't the NY publishers, they're book sellers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Google. What happened to the publishers? Some of them are trying to jump on the bandwagon, but they're running fast to catch up. Aren't you a “Real Writer,” if your publisher specializes in ebooks?

People who self-publish, are they somehow a lesser breed of writers? In the past, many books that have subsequently become best sellers were published by the authors. I suppose these writers weren't “Real Writers” either. We have all sorts of pejorative terms for self-published writers, but is that only because we're afraid that they have more guts than we do? Believing in yourself is critical. If you truly believe you have something to say, why not self-publish. In today's internet age, we have Lulu and Create Space who publish books not only for their own websites, but have them listed on the big sellers like Barnes and Noble and Amazon. There are other options like iUniverse and First Books. If writers use these mechanisms to get their message out, aren't they “Real Writers?”

Personally, I believe that anyone who has the guts to get his or her ideas in front of other people is a “Real Writer.” I admire people who believe in themselves enough to self-publish, use ebook publishers, small publishers, or any other mechanism to get their ideas out. I may not want to read their books, but then, I don't read all the books that come out of NY either.

So the question is “What makes you feel like a “Real Writer?” I talked mostly about book publishing, but that's not necessarily what makes a "Real Writer." Don't be shy, tell us about your criteria. If you post on your blog. I promise to come and read what you have to say, if you let me know where you are.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Life Begins at 60 by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Permission is given to print this essay in its entirety, including byline and tagline.
No charge will be incurred by the publisher.

Beating Time at Its Own Game

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease or death. Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place. The ones that can’t be seen and can’t be acknowledged because we don’t know they are there. They creep up silently on padded feet and, if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them.

The decade of the 50s was a time when these kinds of barriers faced those with dark skin, those who lived in closed religious communities, and those who were female.

When I applied for a job as a writer at Hearst Corporation in New York in 1961 I was required to take a typing test. I was piqued because I wasn’t applying for the typing pool; I was applying for a post as an editorial assistant.

I was told, “No typing test, no interview.” I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could do 70-in-a-minute. I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised. I was only twenty and had no real skills in assertiveness. Today I am amazed I had the wherewithal to do that.

The essentials of this anecdote lie in the fact that I was upset for the wrong reasons. My irritation was a reflection of hubris. However, that pride was probably what goaded me into speaking up; pride is not always a bad thing to have.

It never occurred to me that this requirement was one that applied only to women much less that I should be angry for the sake of my entire gender. Prejudice is sometimes like traveling on well-worn treads; you have no idea you’re in danger. It also feeds on the ignorance of its victims. They benignly accept their lot because they know no better.

Something similar was at work when I married and had children. I happily took a new direction to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. I left my writing with hardly a backward look. Back then, in the days before women had been made aware, the possibilities were not an open book to be denied or accepted. I just did what was expected by the entire culture.

Things are so much better now; I don’t think women younger than their mid-fifties have any idea or how ignorant most women were to their own possibilities. That there was a time when we didn’t even know we had choices is not fiction. Most women were full time mothers and often didn’t drive or have their own transportation.

I had always wanted to sit in a forest or an office or a newsroom with a pencil in my hand. I dreamed writing, lived writing and loved writing. I wanted to write the next “Gone with the Wind” only about Utah instead of about the South. I had a plan that was, itself, gone with the wind.

It was the 1950s and women in that time, and especially in that place, had no notion of who they should be, could be. It was difficult to think independently; most everyone around them had difficulty seeing the difference between society’s expectations and their own.

“You can’t be a nurse,” my mother said. “Your ankles aren’t sturdy enough.” I also was told I couldn’t be a doctor because that wasn’t a woman’s vocation.

“Be a teacher because you can be home the same hours as your children, but learn to type because every woman should be able to make a living somehow if their husband dies.”

Writing was not a consideration. It didn’t fit any of the requirements. So when I gave it up, it didn’t feel like I was giving up much.

When I began to put myself through college I took the sound advice and studied education so I’d have a profession. I made 75 cents an hour (this was, after all, the 50s!) working as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune. That I was making a living writing didn’t occur to me. I met a handsome young man and we were married. His career took precedence; that was simply how it was done. Then there were two children, carefully planned, also because that was how it should be done. By the 70s we both yearned for a career with autonomy, one where we could spend time with our children and be in command of our own lives.

My dream was a victim of the status quo. It never occurred to me to just strike out in my own direction when my husband and children needed me. The pain was there. I just didn’t recognize it so I could hardly address it and fix it.

My husband and I built a business. We raised a lawyer and a sociologist, grew in joy with a grandson, lived through floods and moves, enjoyed travel. For forty years I didn’t write and, during that time, there were changes. Women had more choices but more than that they had become more aware. The equipment—the gears and pulleys—were in place for a different view on life. In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been but also that the hole was more vast than the space vacated by them. I knew I not only would be able to write, I would need to write.

Then I read that, if those who live until they are fifty in these times may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me—plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life than they did for the first because they won’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.

One day I sat down and began to write the “Great Utah Novel.” I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. I had majored in English Lit. Writing a novel should be pretty much second nature.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t as easy as writing the news stories I had written as a young woman. There were certain skills I didn’t have. It was a discouraging time. I might not have to learn speech and motor skills and the ABCs but there sure was a lot I didn’t know about writing.

Somewhere after writing about 400 pages (easily a year’s work), I knew something major was wrong.

I took classes at UCLA in writing. I attended writers’ conferences. I read up on marketing. I updated computer skills that had been honed in the days of the Apple II. And all the while I wrote and revised and listened and revised again. This Is the Place finally emerged.

It is about a young woman, Skylar Eccles, who is a half-breed. In Utah where she was born and raised, that meant that she was one-half Mormon and one-half any other religion. Skylar considers marrying a Mormon man in spite of her own internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history—several generations of women who entered into mixed marriages—and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north.

Much of what I wrote about is my own story. If my novel were a tapestry, the warp would be real but the woof would be the stuff of imagination—real fiction.

I think I bring a unique vision to my work. Utah has a beauty and wonder of its own. The Mormons are a mystery to many. I tell a story about Utah in the 50s that could only be told by someone who lived in that time and place and who was a part of the two cultures—the Mormon and the Nonmormon—that make it a whole.
I am proud that I did it. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. Forty years brought insight to the story in terms of the obstacles that women faced in those days.
I also like being proof that a new life can start late—or that it is never too late to revive a dream.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the award-winning author of This is the Place, Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered, and Tracings, a chapbook of poetry. She is also the author of The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't. and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success, both award-winners. This tip sheet is one of many she uses to share her publicity secrets with fellow authors. Learn more about her at or

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meet Carolyn Howard-Johnson

As a college freshman, Carolyn Howard-Johnson was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake Tribune--"A Great Pulitzer Prize Winning Newspaper"-- where she wrote features for the society page and a column under the name of Debra Paige.

Later, in New York, she was an editorial assistant at Good Housekeeping Magazine. She also handled accounts for fashion publicist Eleanor Lambert who instituted the first Ten Best Dressed List, where she wrote releases for celebrity designers of the time including Pauline Trigere, Rudy Gernreich and Christian Dior. She was also a consultant for the Oak Park Press in the Chicago area.

Her nonfiction and humor have been seen in national magazines and her fiction and poetry appear regularly in anthologies and review journals. She has been a columnist for The Pasadena Star News and is now a columnist for Home D├ęcor Buyer, a trade magazine, and and others. She writes movie and theatre reviews for The Glendale News-Press.

She studied at the University of Utah, graduated from USC and has done postgraduate work in writing at UCLA. She also studied writing at Cambridge University, United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University in Prague.

The author’s first novel, This Is The Place, and her book of creative nonfiction are award-winners. She also wrote a screenplay, The Killing Ground. Her book The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't was named USA Book News' Best Professional Book of 2004 and won Book Publicists of southern California's Irwin award.

The second book in the HowToDoItFrugally series is The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success which also won a USA Book News Best Book nod. It is also the winner of Reader Views Literary Award and a finalist in the New Generation Indie Best Book Awards. Her marketing campaign for that book took top honors for marketing.

Howard-Johnson’s stories have appeared in anthologies like: Pass/Fail, edited by Rose A. O. Kleidon, PhD; Calliope’s Mousepad in review journals like California State University at Stanislaus's Penumbra and the Mochila Review.

She was honored as Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award by California Legislature members, Carol Liu, Dario Frommer and Jack Scott. She is the recipient of her community's Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance. She was honored by her city's Character and Ethics committee for promoting tolerance with her writing and was named to Pasadena Weekly's list of 14 women of "San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen"

Born and raised in Utah, Howard-Johnson raised her own family in sunny Southern California.

Blogs on Writing Topics:

Sharing with Writers is a blog on all things publishing with an emphasis on book promotion. It was
named to Writer's Digest 101 Best Website list.
The New Book Review is a great way for readers, authors, reviewers and publicists to get more
mileage out of a great review. Guidelines for submitting (and recycling) good reviews are in the left
column. Scroll down a bit. It's free.
This is a blog where participants in in my HowToDoItFrugally cooperative fair booths exchange idea
that make a ho-hum booth into a sizzling success. We keep it open so all authors can learn from our
successes and mmmm...challenges.
This is the Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor blog. It covers everything that has anything to do with
editing from grammar to formatting. The question and answer format encourages you to get the answers
you need.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Passing on the Lovely Blog Award

According to the rules, recipients of The Lovely Blog Award must pass it on. It's an honor to have the award, and it's even better to acknowledge someone else.

I'm passing The Lovely Blog Award to Kathy Stemke for one very special reason: she believes in herself. Kathy is one of those people you know you can count on. She actually reads the Virtual Book Tour blogs and makes good comments, does her own posts on time and doesn't complain about the amount of work. However, what really impressed me about Kathy was her decision to self-publish her book: Moving Through all Seven Days. My mother was a teacher who believed in movement and physical activities to unlock the language arts and teach people to read. She would have loved this book. Check out the reviews at Nancy Famolari's Author Spotlight.

I hope Katy gets lots of readers, but I think she'll gain most from the experience of being published. It's wonderful if you find an editor or publisher who's interested in your work, but most important you have to believe in it yourself. Therefore, I applaud Kathy and present this award. If you don't believe in yourself, who will.

Kathy, please retrieve the picture from my blog, paste it on yours and, of course, make a link back to my blog. I hope you enjoy the award as much as I enjoyed giving it. Now it's your turn to pass it on.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Internal Conflict in Summer's Story, a Romance Novel

When the story opens, Summer's father is dead. Although he was an out of control alcoholic, Summer blames herself for not being able to save him. Likewise, she blames the farm owner, Ned, believing that telling her father he couldn't work with the horses killed him. In the opening scene, Summer's guilt drives her away from Ned and his lovely farm into the arms of Davis Clayton, a charismatic racehorse driver much like her father. Choosing Davis over Ned sets the stage for the near tragedy that follows.

Summer's internal conflict affects everyone in the novel, Ned, Davis, and even her enemy Max Schiller. The major external conflicts in the story revolve around Summer's desire to get her trotter, Meadow, to the Hambletonian Oaks. How Summer and the people around her respond to this conflict is driven, not only by Summer's internal conflict, but by the needs and desires of those around her. How she resolves her issues involves more excitement and romance than most of us experience in the real world, but isn't that what makes a romance novel such a good escape?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spider in the Mailbox by Linda Asato

Linda Asato has written a delightful children's book, Spider in the Mailbox.

Here's what one reviewer had to say about it:

Children love stories about family, animals, and other creatures, especially when they can learn things at the same time. Linda Asato tells the tale of a little girl who checks the mail every day – allowing children to learn the days of the week, and sees a spider in the mailbox (number one). The second day, she sees two crows (number two). Each day the types and number of creatures changes, but the spider remains. Each day, the girl runs to tell her busy mother what she saw.

Lessons to learn are counting to seven and the days of the week, learned in a fun way.

Ryan Shaw brings Asato’s delightful story to life with his bright illustrations.

Spider in Our Mailbox

by Linda Asato

illustrated by Ryan Shaw

published by 4RV Publishing

released May 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0-981