Monday, March 31, 2008

Diner Prompts and Flash Fiction

This biweek at the Diner, we’ve decided to try something a little different. Using Diner-themed prompts, many of us are going to flex our creative muscles and whip up a little free flash fiction for our visitors’ enjoyment. Please keep in mind these were written quickly and some of them under duress *heh*. The flash fiction pieces may or may not adhere to traditional guidelines for flash fiction, such as having a plot arc (beginning, middle, end) or a certain length. Honestly, we don't know what the prompts are going to churn up yet. Many of the entries may be more like vignettes. But anyway.

My part of the project was originally to craft the prompts, but later in the biweek, I suspect I’ll be drawn into the fray as well. In addition, we will hopefully have a few fresh faces joining in for the biweek, and if any of our visitors would like a crack at a prompt, just email me via my website and we’ll get you set up.

The prompts are:

1. A drunk/weird person comes into the Diner for coffee/pie/whatever and decides to tell you "the truth". What is "the truth" that he or she tells you?

2. We run out of apple pie and the only kinds left are cherry, peach, chocolate and lemon. What do you do when the 20th person gets upset that he or she can't have apple pie? (Image from:

3. The health inspector comes into the Diner unexpectedly. How does that go?

4. You overhear two suspicious or shady looking characters discussing something that sounds as shady as they are. What do you do?

5. Your ex comes into the Diner with his or her new love. What do you do?

6. You realize halfway through your shift that your shoes are mismatched (or some other cosmetic mishap) but nobody told you.

7. The new waitress has to be trained by you and seems like a total disaster. What happens?

8. You were the last one there at night and were supposed to close up shop, but a desperate individual bangs on the door, seeking entrance for reasons unknown. What happens next?

9. You and the other employees are on a quest to get every customer to vote for the Diner in the "city's favorite pie" contest so the Diner will win the annual golden pie trophy. How does this make you feel? Are you successful?

10. A customer requests a special order...a very odd special order. What is it and what happens next?

11. What happened in the Diner bathroom to send the customers in there screaming and running out into the street??

12. Someone fires up the Diner jukebox and it starts playing a song you know darn well wasn't on there the last time you checked. What's the song, who played it and what's going on? (Original image:

13. We're getting a nice TV installed at the Diner to mount in the air at one end of the counter. What shows are we going to play on it? Are there any staff or customer arguments about what should be playing?

14. The Diner has a small library of books/magazines/papers customers can look at while they're eating. You're in charge of this library, and when you find out that (?) has been stolen out of it yet again, what happens next?

15. The new cook wants to fancy up the Diner menu and keeps trying to change our traditional recipes. Any interesting incidents during this battle of wills between the cook, the Diner employees, the customers and pie lovers?

16. The Diner is having a "Free Piece of Pie" day to celebrate some event, be it National Pie Week or The Diner's X number of years in operation. How many pieces of pie do we give away? Which customers try to get more than one piece of free pie? What craziness ensues? Do you ever want to see or eat pie again after this day? Write a short scene that takes place during Free Pie Day.

17. It's a really really slow day at the Diner. Why is it slow today? What do the employees do to liven things up or pass the time?

18. A customer comes in with a passel of kids and doesn't seem capable of restraining them. What havoc do they cause and what do the Diner employees do about it?

19. A crucial Diner employee -- be it cook, waitress, hostess, etc. -- calls in with the stomach flu and everyone else has to scramble to cover his or her duties. Who called in and how does the Diner pull together (or not!) to remedy the problem?

20. On your treasured day off, what draws you to go to the Diner anyway and what happens while you're there?

21. A famous writer / movie star / musician who happens to be your favorite comes into the Diner and you have the chance to interact with this person. What happens?

22. A supernatural creature inadvertently reveals him or herself while seated in a Diner booth and inspecting the menu. What type of creature is it and what happens next? Who notices -- only you? Other employees? Everyone in the Diner?

23. Two customers have a lover's tiff that ends up involving you in some way. Why do you get dragged in and what happens next?

24. Several customers you happen to know (for whatever reason) are wanted by the police (for whatever reason) come into the Diner and.... Do they order food like regular customers? Do something criminal? And what do you do?

25. The Diner's biggest fridge has apparently ceased working. Blast! And it's the lunch rush! What happens?

26. Something happens outside the Diner that has everyone pressed to the windows, staring at the spectacle in the parking lot/road/nearby area/etc. What in the world is going on?

27. A customer is caught attempting to steal secret Diner recipes. How do the employees deal with this situation? Does it happen often?

28. Due to health code restrictions, the only animals in the Diner are supposed to be seeing eye dogs. What do you do when the "blind" customer with the (badly behaved? suspicious? werewolf-esque?) seeing eye dog reveals he or she is not blind? What is really going on? (Original image:

29. Did you just see a ghost out of the corner of your eye when you were bustling around behind the counter, making coffee??

30. In today's paper, the restaurant section has a vicious critique of the Diner's food/atmosphere/staff/etc. Since we obviously are awesome, why was the critique run and what, if anything, do we do about it?

31. A doorway to an alternate dimension is discovered in one of the Diner's bathroom stalls. Which dimension does it lead to, and do we use it, keep it secret, reveal it, close it off forever or not even realize it's there?

32. An editor or agent you submitted to comes into the Diner with a stack of manuscripts to skim while he or she lunches. You recognize yours in the stack. What happens next?

33. A long-lost friend or relative (or maybe enemy!) comes into the Diner and the two of you recognize each other. Who is it and what happens next?

34. While cleaning the Diner after the customers have gone, you find something left by a customer, something you suspect is very very important. What is it and what do you do about it?

35. A customer starts hitting on you big-time. Who is it, how do you feel about it, do they have an ulterior motive beyond your essential hotness, and what happens next?

36. When you go on a two week vacation and travel to a distant location for fun and frolic, you run across another diner that has a lot of suspicious similarities to YOUR Diner. What's going on here?

37. The Diner's owner turns up missing and the employees get a ransom note during the dinner rush. Why did the note come to the employees instead of the owner's family? What does the note ask for? What do the employees decide to do? (Original image:

38. You unlock the Diner first thing in the morning and discover an individual inside who isn't supposed to be there. Who is there and what are they doing?

39. You've been chosen as employee of the month. What special thing did you do the previous month that the Diner bestowed this honor upon you? Does it come with any rewards beyond a certificate?

40. Describe the time you almost got fired from the Diner. What was the issue and how was it resolved?

Stay with us. It should be an exciting two weeks!

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing *

Friday, March 28, 2008

Relax, It's Spring!

Fill the well, recharge, stop and smell the roses, they all mean the same thing: people need to take breaks from the stress and rush of their lives. And this applies to creative people—including writers—even more. How can we expect our muse to help us if we never give her a vacation?

This was brought home to me recently when my arthritis/degenerative disk disease went into a major flare. The pain bothered me, but the worst thing was the length of time it went on. There I was, sitting propped in the recliner, thinking of the sixteen million things I needed to be doing and how far behind I was going to be when I did feel better. As I got more and more frustrated and irritable my poor husband must have done some suffering himself. At one point he gently told me, "You don’t know how to be sick." At first that made me angry. I’d been sick off and on my whole life. If anybody knew how to be sick, it was me. Later, though, it got me thinking. Why couldn’t I relax and take a break now and then? Even if I wasn't sick? Would the world really end if I asked somebody else to handle a chore? Did I have to read all my email? Would it be so horrible if I left something undone? Or if I said that horrible "no" word?

I knew studies have shown that workers are more productive when they have regular opportunities to relax and recharge. I’ve even experienced that truth in my own life. I knew pushing too hard didn’t really get me anywhere, and after a while would backfire on me. Like maybe cause an arthritis/DDD flare. It wasn’t easy, but I did eventually convince myself to relax a little. I watched some movies, I pulled out that poncho I was making for my granddaughter, I played with the dogs, and of course I read. Slowly I began to relax. It was more challenging than writing ten novels, but finally it did begin to sink in.

Spring cleaning is traditional, and this spring I invite you to join me in cleaning our lives of the things that prevent us from taking the breaks we need. I know it’s hard. Trust me, I struggle every day with the need to do just one more thing. But by letting go and enjoying the beauty and fun around us, we’ll be better writers—and people. Less irritable, less stressed, less likely to die an early death. And our family and friends will appreciate the fresher, calmer us.

My challenge to you is to make a list of things you love, but don’t think you have time for. Then, over the next week, make the time to do at least one or two. As the commercial said, "Try it, you’ll like it."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Enjoy Those Spring Breezes

We're supposed to be blogging about spring, rejuvenation, rebirth etc...

Well, I don't wanna.

How am I supposed to write about fertilizing my inner creator when spring marks for me a time of great sadness and the fact that summer is just around the corner? (for those who don't know me, I dislike summer intensely:) I get depressed and cranky, plus the fact I can't get rid of this darn cold doesn't help!

Well, never fear. I've never been one to bring people down and I'm not gonna start now.

There are many things about spring I do like. Flowers, blooming trees, birds in the bushes outside my office window. But my favorite part of spring; that small gap between the last frost and the humid days of a NY summer when I can open my windows and let the breeze run through.

There is nothing more calming then having a cool breeze touch your face while listening to the quiet afternoon, save for the chirp of birds and the distant sound of a lawn mower. I love to breathe in the smell of fresh cut grass and budding flowers. During this painful time of the year, I look for that comfort, I get lost in it and that makes it very hard for me to write.

But, I have to write. I have critiques to give and receive, revisions to make, submissions to send out. Time doesn't stop while I sit and pout, and I can't just let it pass me by. I may be able to do all these things, but any new projects just won't happen.

Time heals all wounds and I can only hope this year will be better. Maybe one day I'll be able to turn that inner sadness into a muse who will snap me out of the doldrums and get those creative juices flowing.

Until then, I'll enjoy those spring breezes :)


Monday, March 24, 2008

Spring Break

For my family, Spring Break technically began at 3:55 on Thursday. The kids came flying off the school bus, high on candy from an Easter egg hunt and -- as if a basket full of chocolate eggs and jellybeans wasn’t enough sugar -- they had an ice cream party with all-you-can-eat sprinkles, M&Ms, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream. I should know. As a room mom, I helped dish it all out to them.

By 9:36 on Friday morning, my 6 year old son, also known as “the child who cannot self-entertain,” was bored out of his mind. His sister was still at a sleep-over, the kids across the street were packing to go to New York and couldn’t play, and since I had strange men in my attic laying carpet, we couldn’t leave the house to go to the park. Ah, the joys of spring break -- a holiday for children, a nightmare for parents.

It probably wouldn’t be so bad if we weren’t still in renovation mode (have been since Christmas). I’ve had contractors hammering and sawing above me, below me, and all around me. Three remodeling projects at once -- what were we thinking? And since we caught one of the subcontractors trying to steal from us, I have been a virtual prisoner in my own home, babysitting grown men so it doesn’t happen again. Then this weekend, my husband and I spent both days fixing the paint job in the basement (soon to be christened “The Man Cave”) the painters managed to leave half done. Today and tomorrow, a small army will be laying more carpet down there. Wednesday and Saturday, the new furniture and entertainment center will come and need to be assembled. Sometime after that, the sunroom and the whole exterior will be painted. The fun just never ends.

So next week, I refuse to clean out a single closet, even though they desperately need it. (Technically, I’m missing the cleaning gene anyway -- a birth defect I inherited from my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Packrat -- so I have an excuse on that one.) I’m not going to plant flowers in the beds I just cleared last week of leaves and overgrown monkey grass, even though they look naked, empty and forlorn. I am not going to start a new manuscript even if by some miracle this last one gets finished and sent off (2 scenes to go -- it could happen!). No, next week is going to be MY Spring Break. Once I put my kids on the school bus, I’m going to grab a stack of those books that have been gathering dust in my TBR piles and start reading. For fun. For pleasure. Because I need to. Call it rejuvenation. Call it refilling the well. Whatever. I deserve it. I need it. I’m gonna do it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Weeding your garden.

Jody used a garden analogy earlier this week to wake your creativity. I'm going to use another analogy. Weed your garden. What do I mean? Get rid of the deadwood. Remove things from your life which are no longer servicing you.

In January, I bought a new house. In February, I moved. I will be spending the rest of the year "weeding." Why? Because I didn't get the chance to go through 40+ years of accumulated junk before the move, so I have to do it now. I can barely WALK THROUGH my basement. Most of what's down there is books. Boxes and boxes of books.

As a librarian I should know better. One of the first things taught to library school students is the importance of weeding a collection. This was hard for me. When my sister and I cleaned out my parents' house, we found college textbooks. Theirs. They went to college in the 1950s. The EARLY 1950s. Need I say more?
Now, after working in the library for a few years, I'm a convert. Weeding is vital to keep things useful and growing. Yes dear reader, a writer/librarian is telling you to get rid of books. Advisedly. If you love a book, pick it up often (for pleasure or research), then keep it. If you have books in boxes - boxes you haven't opened in years. Well, then it's time to weed.

Libraries have very specific criteria for weeding a collection. Most often, books are removed because of condition, lack of currency, or because they don't circulate. If a book is removed for condition, it looks ratty or spends more time in repair than it does in a reader's hands. Time to dump it. However, a book that's ratty is probably being checked out a lot so we replace it with the same or a newer version. Lack of currency is pretty self explanatory. Science books that are more than five years old are going to be gone from my reference collection. Science changes way too fast too keep a twenty year old book on the shelf. Medical books should be replaced often, also due to advances.

Now, a book may be removed because it doesn't circulate or rarely does. This means a book hasn't been checked out of the library in three to five years, or has only a handful of check outs. I'm going to let you in on a secret (and librarians will want to kill me). If your library has a favorite reference or non-fiction book that you want it to keep forever, check the darn thing out!!! At least once a year, but more if you really want it to stay. Tell your friends about it. Make the book popular. Otherwise, the book is outta there.

I would suggest you use these same standards when weeding your personal collection of books. Does it look awful? Is it falling apart? Have it rebound or get a new copy. Is the information out of date? Is it silly? Dump it. Replace it if you need it for research. Otherwise, downsize.

Finally, we get to circulation. How do you apply the concept of "circulation" to your personal collection? Start it in a box? Has it been in box for years? Obviously you don't miss it. Gone. If your precious book is not in a box, then ask yourself when was the last time you read/used it? Are you keeping it just because you think you'll need it. Then keep it for now, but reevaluate it later. Yearly, at the least!

Yes, you can apply this code to your books whether they are fiction or not. If it is a keeper book, by all means keep it. However, reread it every so often. Tastes change. What was once a keeper may no longer be one. Really. I've reread some of the books that I bought when in my twenties and thought they were the best things I'd ever read. The reread was...disappointing. I still have some of them, but I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get rid of them.

Should you just throw them away? If the problem is condition...YES! Your library doesn't want smelly, moldy books any more than YOU do. Neither does the GoodWill or Salvation Army. The library doesn't want a book which is falling apart. We get rid of books like that. You can put them out with the recycling, rather than add them to the landfill if you want to be more green. But take responsibility for your books, don't ask an organization to do it for you. Pretty please? With sugar on top?

If the book is no longer current but in good condition, you can give it to Goodwill or Salvation Army for them to sell. You could donate it to the Friends of the Library or PTA for their book sales. Your library won't want to add it to the shelves for obvious reasons.

If a book is in good condition but no longer useful to you, then by all means consider donating it to your library. However, don't expect to find it on the library shelves. They may add it, they may not. Why? Well, if it is older it may not circulate. We may already have a copy...or multiple copies on the shelves. If my library doesn't add a donated book to our shelves, we pass it on to the Friends. They have an ongoing book sale cart and do annual book sales. Otherwise, donate your book to the other organizations I mentioned.

If you want to put in the effort, there's always a garage sale. Heck, check out whether you can sell it for the big bucks on eBay. I think someone just sold a corn flake shaped like Illinois there for a whole LOT of money. Books ought to be worth more than a corn flake. But then, I would think that. I'm a writer and a librarian. :-)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Cleaning Your Manuscript: Thirteen Considerations

Happy first day of Spring! I’ve been studying seed catalogs and munching chocolate eggs waiting for spring and now, spring’s arrival is official. Along with the baseball season beginning, robins returning and lawns greening, spring is our signal to open the windows, shake out our rugs, sweep the garage and sort through closets.

It’s spring-cleaning time!

Almost anything can be tidied up. That includes our manuscripts. Here are 13 tips to help you get the cobwebs out of those manuscripts gathering dust in your desk drawers.

Spring Cleaning your manuscript: 13 Considerations

1. Just as you go through closets and remove out-of-style clothes, search through your manuscript and eliminate unnecessary adverbs. You’ll usually find the adverbs linked up with weak verbs.

2. Replace weak verbs with stronger ones. Ted rocketed around the bases reads better than Ted ran fast around the bases.

3. Get rid of adjective strings. For example: You might change “Mary threw the light reddish ball” to “Mary threw the pink ball.”

4. Ask yourself: Is there a simpler way I can say this? Sometimes one word can replace a whole phrase. For example in a manuscript, I mentioned the white part of a person’s eye. Later, with research, I discovered there’s a word for it, sclera. Using sclera got rid of a bit of wordiness.

5. Change passive sentences into active sentences. Make sure someone is doing the action in your sentences. “Frank stole the cookies” sounds infinitely better than “The cookies were stolen by Frank.”

6. Remember those comfy old slippers you love wearing around the house? The fuchsia faux fur has turned a dull gray rose and the sole flaps at the toes. They don’t enhance your image, but you adore them. Likewise many writers have pet words that don’t add to their manuscripts. Find out what tend to be yours and put them out with the trash. Here’s a few common ones: only, just, that, okay, all right, and, and then.

7. Check your pronouns. Is it clear who/what you’re referring to? Juan and Jose scrambled for the sword. He got it and swung, parting his fingers from his left hand. Readers needs to know who got the sword and whose fingers are now on the floor. You as the author should be able to convey the scene from your head to the paper without confusing the reader.

8. Look for redundancies. Areas where you’ve restated something. For example: His fist clenched, Ron yelled, “I’m so angry!” His face was a mask of fury. Ron was mad. Why state the obvious? It annoys the reader.

9. Ever repair a shattered vase? You have to make sure the pieces fit together well before you can successfully glue your vase together. Good writing is like that. Things need to follow in a logical order. In other words, keep the cart behind the horse that’s pulling it. Make sure reactions are in the right sequence. Passages like this one can confuse readers. “Ahmad ducked as he covered his ears. Bang! John dropped his gun. “Look out,” John cried. The chambered bullet shot from the barrel.

10. Follow the one-thing-at-a-time rule. If you pull out all the stuff in your closets at once, you’ll have a mess. That same mayhem happens when you throw too much at your characters before they can react. You get a rumble like this: “Tied to the railroad track as Engine 109 sped toward her, Penelope considered Dustin’s proposal and remembered the time he’d kissed her on their first date. How luscious his lips had tasted after he bought her a sassafras at the salon. She said, ‘Yes, I’d be happy to be your wife, if you’d just untie my hands before the train arrives.’ ”

These complex situations baffle the best of us. Here’s how the same scene might read one stimulus at time.

The tracks rumbled as Engine 109 sped toward her. Penelope wriggled her fingers, trying to free herself. Dustin ran over.
“Help, Dustin!”
“Only if you marry me,” Dustin said with a smirk. Without waiting for her answer, he knelt, opened his pocket knife and cut through Penelope’s bonds.
She rolled off the track. Gathering her in his arms, Dustin kissed her.
Penelope tasted sassafras on his luscious lips. “Of course I’ll marry you. I’ve wanted to since our first date.”
Engine 109’s horn blew, as it swept past.

When re-reading your work, ask yourself: Does this reaction follow this event logically? Rearrange if necessary.

11. Look for clichés like “quiet as a mouse,” “fat as a pig,” “big as a house,” and see if you can rework them using your own comparisons. If you can’t, cut them from your piece.

12. Spell Check. If you use the computer’s spell check, great, but remember to re-read your manuscript to make sure the computer’s changes make sense. Don’t just accept all.

13. On one of your edits through your manuscript, read it aloud as though you’re performing the piece at a coffee-shop read-in. You’d be surprised what you might be able to spot and correct. The ear edits almost as well as the eye.

Well, that’s my 13 suggestions for spring-cleaning your manuscript -- and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I bet you think of more. Come on, make a suggestion or two. Thanks and Happy First Day of Spring!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

All the Simple Gifts

My background on my dad's side includes the Pennsylvania Dutch. These folks believed in living lives based on "love thy neighbor", and "count your blessings". What better time than spring to take stock of the good things we have in our lives? Spring is a time for renewal. Flowers bloom, babies are born, and we finally sweep the dust of winter out the door, and let in the freshening breeze.

It is so easy to get caught up in the everyday problems we face and forget all the simple gifts we are given to treasure every day. A child's laughter, the quiet moments we get to read a particularly good story, the family and friends who put up with us no matter how grouchy we get.

Each of us has special gifts. They can be as simple as knowing the perfect spot to put your new family portrait, or finding the words to write a story that touches the hearts of all who read it. Take time this spring to be thankful for the simple beauty and joy that life offers. It may give you that fresh perspective you need to finish your novel and send it to someone who will love it as much as you do. I wish you each joy and renewal and leave you with the words of an old but lovely Shaker hymn that means a lot to me.

Simple Gifts

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free
'Tis a gift to come down where we want to be.
And if we find ourselves in the place just right.
It will be in the valley of love and light

Wishing you all the joys that come in spring,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Bored

Before everyone goes waxing poetic about the wonders of spring, I’m here to keep that old romantic streak in check with a healthy dose of Jersey practicality. So just to prove that spring can inspire a sense of humor and get you writing, I submit the following with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. ;)

5 Things I Hate about Spring

1. Losing an hour of sleep – Even if it’s for one day, this does not make me a happy camper. Ben Franklin, founder of daylight savings time torture, will never get my vote for “favorite founding father” because of it. Well, that and the whole turkey as the national emblem thing. I see wild turkeys in my backyard all year long and they ain’t inspiring. Trust me.

2. Spring cleaning – I’m not sure where this urge to clean comes from, but I wish it would stop already. I can just about fit the regular-type cleaning into my schedule and now I have to add cleaning windows, walls, and draperies to the mix. Great.

3. Packing away winter clothes – All I can say to those of you who reside in Florida, the Southwest or southern California is I’m envious. You wisely get to wear the same stuff all year long. Not only do I have to check that clothes are still in wearable condition, I have to predict if they will fit next winter. Then I get to wash them all, suck them all down to the size of a DVD player using one of those highly marketed but never quite leak-proof vacuum sealing bags. For the record, sucking the air out of clothes makes them heavy as heck. Now that they weigh the equivalent of 4 or 5 bowling balls, I get to hand them up to my hubby for storage in the attic. Evidently they didn’t believe in closet space back in the 70’s.

4. Allergies – It’s a true horserace between the mold allergies that kick 15 minutes after it starts raining or the product of the rain: pollen. Grass, trees, flowers, all spit out pollen faster than a dragon spits fire. My car is normally beige. Now, it’s green. The stuff resists windshield wiper fluid, too. Here’s a stock tip for you: invest in Dimetapp and Kleenex.

5. Sunlight – In general, I like sunlight. The days last longer so that when I crawl out of my day job, I can actually see my anemic-white hand in front of my face. The problem with sunlight is that it also gives you clarity. Killer dust bunnies hiding in deep, dark corners of my house are revealed. Now I know why my dog whines and refuses to fetch his ball when it lands in the corners. Cobwebs dangle from my ceiling and are those pine needles stuck in my floorboards? Obviously some holidays didn’t get the memo.

Time to dig out the dreaded vacuum again.

What I do like about spring are babies—baby birds, baby lambs, baby babies. Regeneration. Gotta love that life goes on. I like seeing moms pushing strollers and dads playing basketball with their kids. People start prepping the garden and the local garden store gets more business than the coffee shop. Suddenly the whole neighborhood comes out of hibernation. We get to reconnect—to our neighbors, to nature and to ourselves. That connection is essential to writing stories. After all, whether we write aliens or werewolves, the stories are all inspired by the human touch.

So take a look around. And that green on my windows isn't leftover St. Paddy’s day clings

It’s pollen.

Happy Spring!

Talia ;)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, and we're all thinking green, in more ways than one. But it seemed appropriate, since we're talking about all things Celtic, to share a true story of the Green Isle.

A friend of mine, a rather well-known author, visited Ireland several years ago, and spent a month traveling the country, visiting all the castles and cottages she could find. She kissed the blarney stone (for which I blame her wonderful career:) and walked the hills, and two days before she left, had a "supernatural" experience she later told me about.

For a few weeks, she'd felt as if she'd been followed every step she took, but there was never a footprint or disturbed piece of grass to indicate there was any truth to it. One day, as she hiked a grassy field toward a stand of trees, she swore she saw movement at the edges of the tree line and it bothered her so much that she changed direction and moved, instead, toward a small cottage nearby.

The cottage stood empty, the door open, and very little furniture inside. She knocked several times before entering. The room was dusty, a rough table and two chairs, one with a broken leg, and windows with no glass. But on the kitchen counter, just in that open window, sat a fresh cherry pie and one fork. Nothing else in the entire kitchen, just the pie.

All right. I have to tell you she ate some of the pie, and stayed in the cottage for an hour or two, and when she came back to the place she was staying, she sat down and wrote one of her best novels. And she still loves cherry pie.

I love cherry pie, too, by the way, and we have some here if you'd like a slice.

Is there magic in Ireland? You bet. There are faeries and brownies and elves and so many other creatures of legend and myth, so many stories to tell and wishes to wish. Imagine the Emerald Isle and let your imagination roam....


Friday, March 14, 2008

A Little Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, a woman who was a bit out of the ordinary—Unique, we shall say—was looking for someone to share Happily Ever After with. She’d tried relationships with regular men, even married one. But alas, none of these relationships led to anything long-lasting—although she did cherish the two beautiful, half-regular daughters that resulted from her marriage. Eventually, the Unique Woman gave up on a relationship with a man. Her children were grown and ready to leave home, so the Unique Woman was looking forward to having time to herself.

The Powers That Be, however, had other ideas, and conspired to play matchmaker. Soon the Unique Woman found herself frequently running into an Odd Man. He was muscular, strong, and rather large in his upper body, but his legs were not very long, making him shorter than most men. Unique Woman wasn’t all that tall herself, so she didn’t care about that. She liked his dark red hair and beard, and saw that his bright blue eyes were filled with caring and strength—a lovely combination in Unique Woman’s opinion.

Unique Woman told Odd Man many times that she was not interested in a relationship, to which he only smiled knowingly. Slowly he wormed his way into her heart. Fun-loving and generous to a fault, he touched a special place inside her, a place no one had every touched before. She was determined not to fall in love with him though.

The Unique Woman loved words. They flew around and formed Unique Stories for her. The Odd Man was very supportive of her love of words. He had a love of his own, Shiny Things. His most beloved Shiny Thing was gold, and he loved to go on searches for the precious stuff. He told her that he had lost a pot of shiny gold somewhere, and he was determined to find it. He especially enjoyed looking for this pot of gold after rainstorms, when a rainbow stretches its bright colors across the sky.

For months, Unique Woman and Odd Man traveled around together in Unique Woman’s strange craft to look for his pot of gold and ideas for stories her words could form for her. They talked about their respective interests, and other things, and found that they complimented each other very well. While Unique Woman was introverted and preferred to spend time playing with her words, Odd Man was charming, extroverted, and dearly loved to talk with anyone and everyone. Together they had all their bases covered.

After a time, Unique Woman’s defenses cracked and she fell under the man’s spell. They dated seriously for a while, and eventually they married. The woman’s daughters participated in the wedding, and both were thrilled that their mother had finally found happiness.

The Powers That Be were thrilled at the pairing. A leprechaun and an alien, what a remarkable pair.
By the way, the picture is of one of Unique Woman's grandsons. Think there might be a bit of the Irish on her side of the family too?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: Fairy Tale Fantasy Novels

Since you all know about my book, A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH, based on "The 12 Dancing Princesses", I thought I'd create a list of 13 other fantasy novels fairy tales you may enjoy as well! There's a huge richness of fairy tale revisions in YA (young adult) right now, so I’m going to concentrate on ones that seem to specifically be for adults, with a few exceptions.

1) Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. Based, unsurprisingly, on Tam Lin. Set in sort of contemporary times (70's) at a college.

2) Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede. I'm sure you can guess which one this is based on as well! This story is set during the reign of Elizabeth I.

3) The Nightingale by Kara Dalkey. Like the two previous novels, this is part of the "Fairy Tale Series" that Terri Windling helmed in the previous century. Takes place in historical Japan.

4) Once Upon a Winter's Night by Dennis McKiernan. Based on East O the Sun, West O the Moon and set in a fairy tale-like setting and followed by other novels in the same setting.

5) Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley. Based on Beauty and the Beast. For that matter, so is McKinley's book Beauty, so you might like them both. Both are set in a fantasy typical land.

5) Spindle's End by Robin McKinley. Based on Sleeping Beauty and set in a fantasy typical land with a wonderful heroine.

6) Fitcher's Brides by Gregory Frost. Another entry in the Windling Fairy Tale series and based on Bluebeard. This story is set in New York's lake district in the 1830's.

7) Zel by Donna Jo Napoli. Based on Rapunzel and set in historical Switzerland. This novel is young adult.

8) Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier. Based on The Six Swans and set in medieval Ireland with fantasy touches.

9) Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey. Based on Puss in Boots and set in the ballet world of 1910 London.

10) The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey. Based on Cinderella and several other fairy tales and set in fairy tale land.

11) A Fate Worse Than Dragons by John Moore. Based on...any number of fairy tales where the hero has to rescue the kidnapped princess, with a lot of inside fairy tale jokes.

12) Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire. Based on Snow White. Maguire has revised several classic fairy tales, including Wizard of Oz, by telling the story from an unexpected viewpoint. Set in 16th century Tuscany.

13) Never After by Rebecca Lickiss. Based primarily on Sleeping Beauty but with many fairy tale references thrown in. Set in fairy tale land.

Happy reading!

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing *

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keep Those Doors Closed

My son recently told me he used to stay awake at night, scared when the wind howled. I guess I never realized when I told him stories of my grandmother saying, "Don't open the door to the Banshee," it would scar him for life. Well, maybe not life, but certainly until he was about twelve.

The Banshee is a female spirit from Irish mythology, often described as a woman in white, with long silvery hair that she brushes as she screeches her lament. My grandmother believed if you heard the cry of the Banshee, the person who opened the door would die. Well, that's not exactly true. Yes, the Banshee was considered an omen of death, but hearing her cry meant someone was about to die. Doors opened or not.

Her cry didn't kill people. The belief is, she saw death and she would start weeping just before that death occurred.

The cry of the Banshee summoned the Dullahan, a headless phantom who drove the couch-a-bower, in which lay a coffin. The belief is, if a person opened a door when they heard a coach going by, they could be doused with a pitcherful of blood, thus marking them for death. Makes ya wanna keep your doors closed, doesn't it?

Have a wonderful and safe St. Patrick's Day! Lets hope for a not-so-windy day.


Monday, March 10, 2008

The Lianhan Shee

Since we’re talking about all things Irish this week, you have me at a disadvantage. While I can lay claim to English, German and even a microscopic drop of Cherokee in my blood, there’s nary a dram of the Emerald Isle running through my veins. So, like the good writer that I am, I went and did some research on Irish folklore and found someone you might be interested in meeting…

She is the lianhan shee, or the love fairy. A powerful creature who seeks the love and domination of mortal men, you might think of her as the femme fatale of the fae realm. She is desire incarnate. If a man falls for her, he becomes hers forever, body and soul. Once she’s ensnared him, he will live only for her and his all consuming passion will often destroy him. She’s a fairy dominatrix, because the more suffering she inflicts on the man, the more he wants her. She’s a tease, and the more he hungers for her, the more she eludes him. The lianhan shee creates such passion in a man that he will do anything, sacrifice everything, to have her.

But she will never take a human lover in the mortal realm. To have her, the man must follow her to Tír na nÓg, the Land of Eternal Youth. Unfortunately, to get there, he has to die first. Bummer. But if a man can resist her--and it’s a very rare man who can--she is the one who becomes his slave.

Legend says there is only one lianhan shee and, though no one has ever physically described her, she is sometimes said to be more a force than a single woman. Maybe this is because according to lore, every fairy woman who falls in love becomes one with her. I’m guessing that every time this happens, she morphs, taking on the characteristics of the ‘new addition’ to become someone (or something) else. Or it could be that every man who falls under her spell and manages to survive (again, I’m guessing there aren’t many of them who make it back from the other side), jealously guards his love for her and fears if the world knows about her, another will try to take her from him. But more than likely, it's because while she may choose her lovers from our world, the lianhan shee never allows them to kiss and tell.

Now, you may ask how this can be romantic. The minute a fairy woman falls in love, she gets absorbed into another woman and ceases to exist. Or if a man falls in love with the lianhan shee, he’s ruined for all other women for the rest of his life. He becomes her eternal love slave (some men may say this is not such a bad thing), if he doesn’t whither up and die from wanting her first. Both scenarios kinda puts a damper on the whole HEA thing. But for the writer in me, I see all sorts of potential here.

What if . . . the hero falls in love with a fairy woman (not the lianhan shee). When she goes ‘poof’ he’s delighted because he knows she truly loves him, but then he has to fight to get her back. Don’t ask me how, but he’s probably going to have to call upon some split personality fairy mojo to do it.

Or, what if . . . the hero falls under the lianhan shee’s spell and the human heroine has to go to Tír na nÓg and battle the love fairy to get him back. Major cat fight potential there.

Or, what if . . . the hero is the one man who can resist her and the lianhan shee falls in love with him. Will she give up eternal youth to stay in the mortal realm? And will another lianhan shee come into being to take her place?

Of, what if . . . a fairy hero decides to show the lianhan shee that fairy lovin' is way better than human sex. Maybe she didn’t know what she was missing. *G*

See, for anyone with some imagination (and a little fairy love), anything is possible. What kind of HEA would you give the lianhan shee?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's the Music...

Jody started the week with "it's not the potatoes." I have to agree. Now I love my potatoes, but so many things in Ireland offer me inspiration. The land, the culture, the people, but most especially the music.

I think I have talked about my love of the movie, The Quiet Man before. The movie is a fun romantic comedy but what sets the tone (other than the wonderful Barry Fitzgerald)? The music. I'll never forget that little diddy that Michalin og Flynn would hum and the orchestra picked up.

I'm forever astonished by the resilience and general happiness of Irish music. Even at its most passionate about a given cause, it sounds hopeful. Upbeat. I love that and find it inspiring personally and also with my writing. Unlike Jody and Talia, I don't have a current work in progress set in Ireland. But I have one on the horizon. It was inspired by original music written by my favorite regional band, Wylde Nept. I know, I've talked about these guys before too. At least I think so.

I really hadn't a clue about Irish music until about ten years ago when I joined the SCA and did a demo at a Ren Faire. Wylde Nept was playing traditional celtic music. Their repertoire leans leaning heavily on the bar music-those wonderful fighting and drinking songs. I fell in love...with the music. Now yes, the band guys are cute but it was the music. Really! It spoke to me and spoke to everyone there. Music has power.

I remember at one concert, a Nept virgin (never heard them play before) was there and she got up and started step dancing. REAL step dancing. Everyone cleared the floor cause she was amazing. We also cheered. It was a blast.

Back to the inspiration. I listened to one of their original tunes at a concert and the idea for a story hit me in the head. One day I'll write it and give credit where it's due for my spark of inspiration.

Wylde Nept opened up the world of the Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners and more to me. It's wonderful music to listen to when you write or if you're feeling blue. It never fails to lift me up and it gives me all kinds of ideas.

I've talked myself into cranking up their music to sing along and after a full day at work, I need a lift. Break out a Guinness and start stepping everyone!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Atlantis, Ireland and Mu

Atlantis, Ireland and Mu
Ireland discovered to be Lost Island of Atlantis!

“This is the most amazing find we have ever discovered,” Dr. Jac Hummer leader of the geographic team to South America said. “We are hoping to find an intact burial mound under this pyramid. If we do, it is quite likely that we will have the true burial site of the famed Saint Patrick of Ireland.”

Dr. Hummer recently discovered a stone pyramid deep in the jungles of Brazil. Covered with a thick growth plants, the pyramid appears at first glance to be hundred’s possibly thousands of years old. Dr. Hummer does not think so, pointing out symbols carved into the rock, of what appears to be Celtic crosses, and a possible effigy of an early Christian Bishop.

“If this indeed turns out to be the last resting place of Saint Patrick of Ireland, then I will also have final proof of my theory of Ireland being the lost island of Atlantis,” Dr. Hummer explained.

The early history of Irish studies is characterized by a grave dispute over the origins of Irish civilization. In many ways, this dispute is an argument over two lost continents, Atlantis and Mu, and where their survivors may have settled. Proponents of the Atlantis hypothesis have argued that survivors of that lost continent spread to Africa and to Central America, giving rise to advanced civilizations like Egypt and the Maya while followers of Mu claimed wrongly that refugees from the lost Pacific continent ventured to China and Central America, giving rise to advanced civilizations. That Ireland began with the death these two civilizations has not until now been considered.

Mu as laid down by Plato created a vision of the island-continent located in the Pacific Ocean, whose remains it was thought could still be seen in the cyclopean ruins of the Polynesian islands, most notably the statues of Easter Island. Mu was thought to be lost forever by some cataclysm which destroyed the island home.

Previous studies placed Atlantis in the Atlantic Ocean and had its descendants populate the Atlantic rim, bringing culture to the ignorant natives after the fall of the great island. Newly found evidence in South America supports the theory that not only was Mu destroyed far later than originally thought, but that the present day Ireland is the remaining Island of the land bridge to leading to the technologically advanced civilization of Atlantis.

China Meli special to the Journal.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Thirteen Things About St. Patrick

St. Patrick’s Day:
13 Things About the Saint Behind
the Holiday

The promise of spring is in the buds on the bare branches and under the still massive snow mounds. March has finally arrived and with March, St. Patrick’s Day. It’s the holiday that, for me, heralds the re-greening of everything growing, including the plants and flowers I love.
I’ve always relished St. Patrick’s Day. I look good in green and, as a redhead, I’m often asked if I’m Irish. I like green bagels, love corned beef and cabbage, and I’ve thrown back a flagon or two of green beer. Still, I have to confess I didn’t know a lot about the saint the holiday’s named for. In an effort to learn more, I did a little research and discovered many interesting facts and legends about St. Patrick.

Thirteen Things About St. Patrick

1. He was born at Kilpatrick in Scotland around 387A.D.
2. Patrick was 16 years old when he was captured by pirates.
3. He was sold as a slave to a chieftain, named Milchu, who may have been a druid.
4. Patrick tended Milchu’s sheep on the slopes of Slemish Mountain for six years.
5. In a dream, a voice told Patrick that the time for his escape had come and a ship was waiting to take him back to Britain.
6. Patrick walked west. Some sources say he traveled 200 miles to the west coast of Ireland.
7. After Patrick returned to his home in Scotland, he studied religion and became a priest.
8. He returned to Ireland and for 29 years set about spreading Christianity.
9. It’s reported he baptized more than 120,000 people and started 300 churches.
10. It’s also said that he drove the snakes from Ireland, but most sources believe this is only a legend.
11. Another story about St. Patrick is that he taught the Irish about the Trinity – the union of three divine persons: father, son and holy spirit – using the shamrock and its three lobed leaves.
12. He might have died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland on March 17, 493 A.D. Then again, St. Patrick may have died at Glastonbury Abbey in England. There’s a legend about his jawbone becoming a holy relic, which apparently helped women with childbirth and people suffering epileptic fits.
13. By the 8th century, the Irish were calling St. Patrick the patron saint of Ireland.

What are your thoughts about St. Patrick’s Day? Do you ponder St. Pat? Or do you think of the fun, the parades and the green beer? I’d like to hear from you.
-- Brenda Nelson-Davis
This information about St. Patrick was gathered from the following sites: the Catholic Encyclopedia,,, and www.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone
who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow
Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your
Thirteen in others comments. It's easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings,
comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Druidae

Since Christian times, Druids have been associated with magic and mysticism, occasionally with darker forces. Even earlier in Celtic society they were the intellectual elite, studying philosophy, acting as judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers. History records their presence as early as the 2nd century.

The word Druidae is of Celtic origin. The name Druid is assumed by many to derive from the Greek work drus, meaning "an oak." This tree was considered sacred, central to knowledge and magical attainment. It, along with the Rowan tree were often central to druidic rituals and rites. Druid was a title given to those possessing "oak wisdom".

Some believe Druids originally belonged to a pre-Celtic population in Britain and Ireland that eventually spread into the Roman empire. There is great debate surrounding their appearance. Pictures have shown them barefoot dressed in a knee-length tunic and a hooded cloak. Often holding a staff in one hand with a book and sprig of mistletoe in the other. Often they have a pouch around their middle for money and other tools of their trade.

At specific times of the year, such as Samhain, there would be huge ritual celebrations that included sacrifices, there are some scholars who believe these included human as well animal and plant. There was certainly sexual ritual, often involving virgins whose newly found fertility was considered good luck when it came to the harvest, magic, the moon, and the mysteries of life.

Their influence was as much social as religious. The Druids linked the Celtic peoples with their numerous gods, the lunar calendar and the sacred natural order. Little of their practices remain intact in readable form. Their sacred songs, prayers, incantations and traditional rules of divination and magic have disappeared except for those that have experienced altering forms of Christian reinterpretation.

The lore of the druids, Stonehenge's incredible mystery, and the fascinating histories of Ireland's very early legends are fascinating fodder for the writer It is sad that so much truth has been lost, but there is great opportunity for imagination in the mystic romance of early Irish and Celtic history. The Druids are an integral aspect of that as they are still such a source of wonder and awe to many, and writers have often dipped an imaginary quill into the font of Druidic legend, each to add their own magical touch.

Have a Happy St. Paddy's Day!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Allure of the Emerald Isle

I don't know precisely when I fell in love with Ireland. Certainly it's not because I've ever been there. I've barely left New Jersey, let alone the good old USA. Nor can I claim any ancestral ties to Eire unless one of my Italian relatives were stationed back there when Rome ruled the world. Yet as I look over my WIP, I realize that my Fae hero and heroine have Irish heritage and like Jody, I have a leprechaun (though mine is more of a humorous sidekick-type.)

So what is the fascination?

For me, I think that Ireland is one of the few places in our scientifically-saturated world where it's okay to believe that magic still exists. Ireland resonants with readers and smart writers take advantage of that fact. Even Italian writers.

Irish folklore boasts not only leprechauns, but banshees, grogochs and selkies! Then, all you need to do as a writer is to tap into one of these faerie types and start spinning your story. Okay, so it's not really that easy, but the place holds great fodder for the imagination. Need more inspiration? Track down some Irish music. I highly recommend The Book of Invasions by a band from the '70's called Horslips.

And need I lecture you again on the genius of Van Morrison?

I didn't think so. ;)


Monday, March 3, 2008

It's Not The Potatoes

This week at the Diner, the staff, in honor of St. Patrick's Day March 17, is setting the mood with a series of posts about leprechauns, Celtic mythology, faerie rings, Ireland and incorporating cultural histories into your paranormal romance writing, if anyone is feeling so inspired. As usual, it should be interesting to see how the staffers make this topic their own.

For my part, I’m going to springboard with the fact I'm about to return a contract to Samhain for LIAM'S GOLD, a novella about leprechauns. It's set in the same general world as my July 2008 novel, SURVIVAL OF THE FAIREST, and features a leprechaun hero who's been on a sojourn in humanspace as the final segment of the testing process for leprechauns who want to be part of their government. Both the fairies in SOTF and leprechauns in LIAM'S GOLD live primarily in their own Realm but visit humanspace in order to be tested. The fairies' tests last two weeks and the purpose is for fairies to learn to get by without magic. The leprechauns' tests last a minimum of three years and the purpose is for leprechauns to prove they can outsmart the individuals who prey on them both in humanspace and the Realm.

So why did I choose to populate my story with leprechauns? Is it some instinctive love for all things Celtic? Is it my Irish ancestry? My affection for potato products? Nope, nothing so deep. I wanted my premise to involve a paranormal being I hadn't encountered much in the romance genre but one that would be easily recognizeable, which ruled out lesser known fairies such as the nuckalavee, amadán or firbolg.

Once I established the paranormal "element", I researched it online and in books. I kept a list of common leprechaun characteristics readers would be familiar with as well as interesting ones they might not be familiar with. Then I decided how I'd incorporate them, or explain them away, in my story.

When working with widespread mythological tropes, such as vampires, werewolves or other "mainstream" paranormal creatures, you aren't in any way compelled to stick to existing canon (except your own, if it applies), but you do have to take into account reader expectation. If your vampires aren't harmed by the sun, for example, this has to be accounted for somewhere in your story. Otherwise readers might feel your research or worldbuilding are missing a certain something. And if your leprechauns aren't knee-high tricksters with a fondness for pots of gold and rainbows, you have to take that into account as well.

Mine aren't. Dunno about you, but I didn't think knee-high tricksters would make very appealing love interests for the human everywoman who is the typical heroine of the paranormal romance. Trickster qualities, yes; knee-high stature and kitschy green outfits, no. In fact, the similarities between my leprechauns and leprechauns of legend are few, but I hope they're fully developed in their own right and readers will enjoy my unique take on leprechaun mythology.

Jody W.
A SPELL FOR SUSANNAH--Available now from Samhain Publishing *

PS. I would like to go on record as stating that the existence of this novella and the choice of biweekly blog topic are unrelated, cross my heart. Also, I promise not to overtly pimp again for a long time. Top of the mornin' to ya, and don't forget to sample our Irish Apple pie! It's the special this biweek.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

In like a Lion....

My March is coming in like a lion where I am, and it looks like it's going to be a long month. The Ides of March is most commonly known as the day Julius Caeser was killed by somone he considered a friend. The ultimate betrayal gave way to inspiration for thousands of books and movies, even a popular song by Guns N' Roses. History is rife with ideas and inspiration not just for historical fiction, although Titanic, the assassination of JFK and Jesse James, and any story from the Bible (Raiders of the Lost Ark) have sold well, but also for contemporary and futuristic stories retelling many of the plots from the works of Shakespeare (especially Romeo and Juliet) and other historical events or ideas (National Treasure 1 and 2).

And where does the paranormal fit into this equation? Many of the stories created from these plots and historical events do and can incorporate paranormal elements. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, the paranormal element was the power of the Ark once opened. We have no way of knowing what that power is, but the writer imagined it as a mythical and deadly force. In many of Shakespeare's works, faeries and witches and other paranormal devices made his plays and stories compelling to the people of his time, but to us as well.

As writers of paranormal fiction, we have a wealth of ideas and inspiration to build on, but also have the power to create our own worlds with our own rules of magic or legends or mythology. When the outside world isn't ideal, readers want to escape into the worlds we writers create - it's an awesome power, which comes with awesome responsibility. I, for one, am proud to be a writer and, despite rejections and other blocks I face from time to time, I'm happy to be able to put my words out there for people to read and be touched by them.

Happy writing!