Friday, March 30, 2012

The Joy of Writing a Horoscope Column - Elizabeth Hazel

Horoscope columns have been around since the 1920s. They were originally a way for astrologers to make astrology more accessible to the general public, and of course, to attract new clients.

Fast forward to 2012: not all horoscope columns are created equal! If you look around, you’ll see daily, weekly, and monthly horoscope columns. Some are junk and some are a real treat and surprisingly accurate. The reason horoscope columns aren’t equal is because astrologers aren’t equal. Heck, there are even horoscope columns written by people who aren’t astrologers! And not all astrologers are good writers, and even amongst astrologers who are writers, not all of those can write a good horoscope column.

Back in the pre-Web days when horoscopes were printed in magazines and newspapers, columns were (and still are) strictly limited in length. The newspaper or magazine editor gives the astrologer a certain word-count per issue. The writer often doesn’t have sufficient space to give the reader a comprehensive idea of what the planets have in store. Even with the Web offering almost unlimited bandwidth, horoscope columns still tend to be limited by word count. In my opinion, daily columns wind up turning into fortune-cookie sound bites, while monthly columns cover so much time in such little space that the advice becomes too vague.

Like Goldilocks trying different sized beds, I’ve found that a weekly column is just right. I write out all of the planetary movements for the week, and then spend some time analyzing all of the week’s planetary relationships, called “aspects.” Then I write information for each sign based on how these movements and aspects relate to the Sun-signs.

This isn’t a perfect science OR a perfect art! Sun signs are extremely general. Like I tell my clients, sun-signs are like pie-crusts; they’re just a container. It doesn’t tell me what’s in the pie. To get a really accurate astrological reading, the astrologer has to cast a birth chart set for the date, time and location of the client’s birth. A birth chart is a snap-shot of the solar system, and shows where the Moon, Mercury, Venus, and all of the other planets were at the moment of birth. This is the client’s personal life map, the essential baseline chart that’s essential for all subsequent forecasting charts. Like anything else, you have to start at GO, which is the moment of birth.

So a horoscope writer begins with the understanding that the information given is at best fairly general. That doesn’t mean that low standards are acceptable. The astrologer can still do a very good job of analyzing the week’s transits and aspects, and come up with statements, warnings, and guidance that can be amazingly accurate.

The crux of the matter is offering specific advice in general ways. For instance, I’ve been wrestling with giving advice for Libras for the past year or so. There are all sorts of Librans out there – women and men, younger and older, in relationships or single. A Libran who is married will be having a lot of specific issues centered on a spouse or partner, while a single Libran’s focus may be on other kinds of partnerships, like friendships or work relationships. Wording a week’s advice so it makes sense to all kinds of Librans has been pretty tricky for the past year or so. And if you’re a Libra, don’t get freaked out; nothing in astrology lasts forever.

My current weekly column, The Third Rock Almanac, is my fourth or fifth horoscope effort. I started writing it for the Toledo Free Press, a weekly independent newspaper. An expanded edition of the column, which covers Sunday through Saturday, is posted on Facebook. I’ve done monthlies for various magazine formats, three-month predictions, and even a few annual columns. Doing a daily column is something I’ve resisted from the beginning because of the fortune-cookie problem. If I was less careful and meticulous, it wouldn’t take me so long to write a daily column. It takes about four hours to do the math and analysis and write a weekly column, and it would take nearly that long to write a daily column. Of course, if someone threw a whopping huge pile of money at me, I’d probably do it.

Readers, choose your column with care! There are different criteria for the person interested in following a horoscope column on a regular basis. What do you want? Do you want positive psychological input? Emotional cheerleading? Thoughts or attitudes to consider? Or do you want plain old feet-on-the-ground advice, as in “drive carefully today” or “great day to make important phone calls” type of information?

Different astrologers look at things differently. An astrologer who focuses on personal growth and development (sometimes called an evolutionary astrologer) will write the type of column that helps you with psychological input. Other astrologers will focus on just one planet or aspect for the week, and try to relate it to each sun-sign. This kind of column gives the reader a thought or area of life they want to watch out for that week. Finally, the feet-on-the-ground type of column will be the work of a mundane astrologer who is focused on external events (i.e., the mundane, the every-day) and the experiences of individuals as they move through the world of work, relationships, and family dynamics. This is the kind of column I write.

Readers should have some idea of what they’re reading, and also an idea of what’s available. There’s a ton of free columns available on the Web, but buyer beware! Clicking on links for random sites that advertise free horoscopes can result in computer viruses, Trojans, worms, and spyware. If this is a worry, use a search engine like Mozilla Foxfire that shows a check-mark next to safe sites.

You can also check out horoscopes that are recommended by friends. This is one of the BEST ways to find a good horoscope column, and also a great way to find a good astrologer, tarotist, or psychic. Old-fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations are hard to beat.

Horoscope columns are a great way to start the week. They can give you a good idea of the way the stars are aiding or hindering efforts, and an overview of what to watch for. Even in this general resource the reader can get an idea of when to make hay when the sun is shining, and when to duck and cover.

May the stars shine on your path!

Elizabeth Hazel is an astrologer, tarotist, author, and lecturer. Her book “Tarot Decoded” is the definitive text on tarot dignities and using tarot-astrology to get the most out of readings. Liz’s new book, “Chiron and the Lady Asteroids,” will be released in 2013.

(only 1 copy left, order soon!)

The Whispering Tarot limited edition deck and “Whispering Tarot: Softly Spoken Secrets” accompanying book is available at

Private astrology and tarot readings – contact me through my website or by e-mail at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

One Day Off Email

Yesterday I spent my time working on other things.  I checked my email in the morning and not again all day.  This morning I check my email and got slammed!  Apparently I’m either not allowed to take a day off or everyone was just really chatty yesterday. 

I’ve been enjoying my vacation.  I get up in the morning (usually later than normal) and work on the computer – writing, posting, editing, and a variety of other things.  Then in the afternoon I’ve been working on other projects.  It has been really relaxing.  I even took a nap yesterday.  I’ve even been crossing things off my to do list. 

Today though I’m hyper aware of the impending weekend and the amount of things I need to get done before I go back to work and school next week.  This morning I realized I have a lot of homework I need to get done before Monday.  I was up at 7 this morning and showered and to my desk by 7:45.  Sasha needed grandma time so I spent a bit of time cuddling and petting her.  What can I say Sasha is demanding and has claws… J

When I’m done with this blog I have to work on five lessons in a tutorial for a software program for one of my classes.  I have three stories to edit and write letters on.  I have several chapters to read.  I have a project to work on and a story to edit.  I have gotten one story edited to the point where I think it is done – I’ve sent it off to a couple of people to see what they think. 

Today will be a homework day – hopefully one that is productive.  This way I can play tomorrow (or do more homework) and not feel guilty about visiting with a friend.

Watch for the guest blog by Elizabeth Hazel tomorrow!!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Making Community - Kelley Harrell

I joke to my flist on about dreams that I have, in which we gather for reunions infused with long-weekend slumber parties and lots of gluten-free snack foods.  The thing is, I really have had that dream recurrently, for years, and half or more of the people on my flist I’ve never met in-person.  These are people I’ve met through various venues, interests, and life stages, who for whatever reason have become a solid presence in my life for the last nine years.  Yet in some odd ethereal way those dreams are gatherings of this unique clan of writers, soul friends, spirited minds, and our time together is very much not out first meeting.  It is a reunion.  We are not starting from a beginning.  We are in progress.

Other online groups I meet in dreams for rituals, the creative goddesses who craft the cosmos through their art, the global priestesses who genuinely do tend All Things in their daily spiritual practices.  We assemble and bless the event, evoke the spirit, chart it into our footsteps then clear out, leaving not a careless crumb behind, cos we are ladies, after all.  These are my dream communities, not just in my dreams but my ideals.

In the west we come to animism from the rough, or “wampyjawed,” as my southern ancestors would say.  Modern shamans largely are solo spirits pulling together various threads to weave ‘tribe,’ or they forego the effort and attempt to wing it purely solo.  There’s no correct or incorrect way, though I’ve learned in twenty-four years on a shamanic path, without conscientiously tended ties to a mentoring elder, and in the absence of a tribe of individuals who, despite not having chosen a shamanic path, at least understand ecstatic challenges, we’re doing it the hard way.

Having pioneered along my own broken path I’ve worked with others as clients for fourteen years.  Time and again I’ve watched others and myself peak with euphoric healing and enlightenment, only to wither in a couple of weeks under the drudge, the toil, the work of being human.  We swing from extreme to extreme—clear, well, balanced to confused, frustrated, disenchanted.  We make every effort to carry our transformations alone, because our cultural identity is singular.  It has taught us we are of no value if we can’t stand on our own.  Somewhere along the way, even in the most earth-based modern life paths, we’ve lost our sense of community and of the needs that it fills.

I’ve asked myself, “Is this just the way the animistic spiritual path of the west is?”  Maybe.  I don’t know.  I do know that it doesn’t have to be that way.  We don’t have to isolate and assume that no one else will understand our spiritual experiences.  In fact, no one has to understand them at all. As long as we have careful others who can witness them, give life to them as midwife and loving friend, we can sustain wisdom.

Along with that insight I’ve had to reckon with the fact that I just don’t have the availability for spiritual social gatherings that I had pre-parenthood, though I’ve no less need for them.  I have to find that support where I can, even if it comes to me in dreams, bits, and bytes. 

Throughout the day you’re likely to catch me having conversations with some unseen colleague—walking down the corridor at my day job, stopped at intersections, ambling around in my garden.  It probably looks a little odd to passersby.  For me, though, it’s not only normal, it’s desirable.

Talking to myself with my community in mind helps me step out of the cultural expectation to keep things to myself, to do everything for myself.  If I can risk looking like a nut talking to the air I can cut to the core of exactly what I need to give and receive when finally I am able to post that journal entry, respond to that forum thread. 

And so what if a good part of my community is online, people I’ve never met in-person?  They can deal it to me straight, they can empathize, or speak whatever we both need most in any transaction, because compassion is the fore.  I am their community as much as they are mine.  As an animist it’s all connected—life, life forms, thoughts, cars, social media, emotions…  It’s all real.  It’s here, and There.

Community is where it is.  The more we settle into that wider awareness of how we find each other and share heart-centered experiences, the euphoria from healing or fantastic awakening won’t wither.  It will thrive and enliven some next wonder, for all involved.

And don't be surprised if we only know each other online and in some common space I refer to you as my coworker.

And thanks Mandy for starting it all with that first paid subscription to Live journal! has a complete list of publications.

"Remembering the Tradition: Timeless Heritage, Curious Fate," Engaging the Spirit World: Shamanism, Totemism, and Other Animistic Practices by Lupa. Immanion Press, 2012.

"Telling the Bees," The Spirit of a Woman: Intimate Stories to Empower and Inspire. Edited by Terry László-Gopadze, LMFT. Santa Monica Press, June 2010.

"diligent suns," The Journey of Healing: Wisdom from Survivors of Sexual Abuse. Edited by Marjorie Ryerson. Safer Society Press, May 2010.

"Spiritual Gardening: Creating Sacred Space in Nature," Nature's Gifts: An Anthology Celebrating Nature and Our Natural World. Edited by Smoky Trudeau. Vanilla Heart Publishing, March 2010.

DIY Totemism: Your Personal Guide to Animal Totems by Lupa. Forward by S. Kelley Harrell. Immanion Press, August 2008.

Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma, Spilled Candy Books, September 2004. Read praise for Gift of the Dreamtime and an excerpt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


With my daughter living with us, I rarely get time alone in the house.  Now don’t get me wrong she doesn’t intrude but the time I get completely alone is rare.  I like my alone time.  She is off today volunteering at the library and having lunch with a friend.  This leaves me completely alone in my house (well except for the stalker cat Sasha). 

What to do with my alone time?  There are certainly a ton of options but I will be responsible.  I have transcribing to do and then after that I think I’ll work on editing stories.  I have to edit the two stories I turned in to my Fiction Writing class.  The one is nearly done and the other is a long way from being done. 

This week has been good so far for getting things done.  I have finished more than half the transcribing and will hopefully get that done this morning.  I also finished one of my going away gifts.  My to do list definitely has things crossed off.  After I answer emails this morning I’ll wade back into the list and see what other things I can get finished off. 

The weather here has gone from too warm to normal.  This means yesterday when the temp in the house dipped to below 65 we actually turned the heat back on.  You have to love weather in Wisconsin in March – erratic is the best way to describe it. 

I do have another entry in the Curse of the Black Thumb blog.  Go check it out:

Also I’ll be having two more guest bloggers this week.  Kelley Harrell.  She is a wonderful author.  Here is her bio:

Kelley holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and is pursuing a Masters of Divinity. She lives in North Carolina with a wonderful lover and a couple of energetic Twinkies. Her open dialogue with souls is recorded at Intentional Insights. She writes for The Huffington Post and in a mezzo experience of herself, Kelley is a prolific fiction writer. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, LLC. She walks the path of the modern Druid and is a proud founder of the nonprofit organization The Saferoom Project

Elizabeth Hazel is the other author.  She has a weekly horoscope column and is a published author.  Here is her bio:

Elizabeth Hazel is the author of “Tarot Decoded” (Weiser) and writes the weekly Third Rock Almanac Horoscopes posted every Sunday at Kozmic Kitchen on Facebook. Liz is the editor of the American Tarot Association Quarterly Journal, and the author/artist of “The Whispering Tarot” deck and book. Her book “Chiron and the Lady Asteroids: A New Perspective” will be released in 2012. Articles on a variety of topics can be seen at her site:

Watch tomorrow for Kelley's posting!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Writers Block - Barbara Ardinger

Because I’ve spoken to writers clubs on editing and appeared on two editing panels for the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS), the president of GLAWS and I had a conversation recently about doing a presentation on healing writers block. “It’s simple,” I told him. “You just start writing.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had writers block. Of course, there have been times in my life—like when I was a new mother or so besotted in love one time that I couldn’t think of anything else—that I haven’t been interested in writing, but even going through an M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in English, I never had much trouble with term papers, my thesis, or my dissertation. Like most writers, I suppose, I just walk around in the world with words spiraling in my head and building first lines of blogs, essays, stories, and poems. My challenge is finding time to write those lines down somewhere. Then I have to find more time to type them on my computer. Typing takes more time than thinking.

If you’re a writer, you write. If you think you can’t write or you’re afraid to get started—just write! Sit down with a pencil and paper or at your keyboard and start moving your hands and fingers. Although I love sports writer Red Smith’s famous quote—“There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein”—writing is not quite that painful. I think it’s partly a matter of muscle memory. When I was learning to play the doumbek, I drummed the beledi rhythm (DOUM DOUM tek-a-tek-a DOUM tek-a-tek-a-tek—this is the most familiar belly-dance rhythm) over and over until my arms, hands, and fingers could do it without being directed by my mind. That’s muscle memory. I think learning to type on a QWERTY keyboard works about the same way. As I type this, I’m not thinking individual letters—A-S-I-T-Y-P-E-T-H-I-S, etc.—but whole words. My fingers know where to go. I don’t have to tell them. Of course, I’ve been typing for a long, long time. I learned to type on a standard, nonelectric typewriter. And I remember my grandfather’s typewriter, an ancient Remington with action so stiff you practically had to hit each key with a hammer. (His typewriter was like the one Hazel uses in Upstairs, Downstairs.) Electronic keyboards are certainly easier to use.

So to cure your writers block, start writing. I can hear you protesting. “I can’t think of anything to write!” “How can I write if my mind is empty?” “But what do I write?” “I’ll never be able to write again.” Phooey. Type the first pages of War and Peace if you want to, or the opening of a novel by Charles Dickens. Type the first page of the first Harry Potter book. Type the first verses of the Gospel of John. (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.) Type nursery rhymes. Type a lyric by W.S. Gilbert or Bob Dylan, type a poem by Emily Dickinson, W.S. Merwin, or Philip Levine.

But DO NOT COPY AND PASTE. Don’t copy and paste for two good reasons. First, you really do not want to commit plagiarism. Second, and more important, copying and pasting does not build muscle memory in your fingers. The reason you’re typing is to get your fingers moving, which should get your mind moving again. If you’re reading what you’re typing, you may also learn something about good writing, how words can be put together. It never hurts to read good writing.

Get those fingers moving! Keep typing. I’m pretty sure you will not retype all of War and Peace, but the typing will bestir your mind. It’s like sparks will shoot out from Tolstoy or Rowling or Mother Goose and smash through the make-believe barriers in your mind. Words will crash together. Strings of words will start marching across your synapses. Words will tap dance over your corpus callosum. Ideas will sprout out of your right brain and start flowering in your neurons and spread like green grass down your arms. You might even get imaginary flowers on your fingernails. (Have I taken this metaphor too far? You get it, right?)

When your own ideas start coming, as they inevitably will, hit enter two or three times and start typing what’s coming out of your head and flowing down through your arms. Don’t judge it. Don’t edit it. Don’t worry yet about spelling or punctuation. Don’t even read it very closely. Just type. YOU’RE WRITING.

After you’ve got a paragraph or a stanza or two (or more), then you may want to slow down for a minute. Go back to the top of the page and delete what you copied. Now, if you want to, read what you wrote. Maybe it’s just rough draft. Rough drafts exist to be changed. Edit a little bit if you want to, correct obvious spelling and punctuation errors, make notes about where this is heading. Can you keep going? A writing teacher I once knew said the best way to keep going is to stop in the middle of a sentence. You’ll be irresistibly drawn to complete that sentence the next time you sit down to write.

Finally, it might be useful to distinguish between procrastination and writers block. This may be almost a Jesuitical distinction, but let’s assume it’s valid. When you’re procrastinating, you’re just waiting to write because you’ve got other things to do. Feed the cats. Vacuum the living room. Wash the car. Buy this week’s groceries. But keep this in mind—even if you’re procrastinating, you can’t stop your mind from writing. As you walk around in the world, let the words keep forming paragraphs and stanzas in your mind. And be sure to take the time to get them down on paper or your screen.

Visit Barbara's site at:
Facebook page for my new novel, Secret Lives:

Here's a list of Barbara's books:
Secret Lives (CreateSpace, 2011), a magical realism novel about grandmothers who do magic.  Available in trade paperback and Kindle editions.
Pagan Every Day: Finding the Extraordinary in Our Ordinary Lives (Weiser, 2006) a daybook with essays about religious holidays of many religions, ancient and modern, plus numerous other topics (like Miss Piggy as The Goddess of Everything).  Trade paperback.
Quicksilver Moon (Three Moons Media, 2003), a far-right extremist preacher attacks a coven, a realistic novel … except for the vampire.  Trade paperback.
Finding New Goddesses: Reclaiming Playfulness in Our Spiritual Lives (ECW Press, 2003), a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias.  Trade paperback.
Practicing the Presence of the Goddess (New World Library, 2000), a guide to feminist spirituality (Goddess 101). This book is a revision and reissue of Rituals & Celebrations (below).  Now available in a Kindle edition!
Goddess Meditations (Llewellyn, 1998), the first book of meditations on goddesses, including chakra goddesses, to be published. Out of print, but still available on Amazon.  Trade paperback.
A Woman’s Book of Rituals & Celebrations (New World Library, 1992; revised edition, 1995  Available in hardcover, trade paperback, and now in a Kindle edition.
Seeing Solutions (Signet New Age Book, 1989), a book of guided meditations. Long out of print.  Paperback. (Don’t spend $80 for a new one!)

Sunday, March 25, 2012


It’s been a busy weekend.  I’ve got my list for while I’m on vacation and I’ve already started on it.  I have a two page post it list of what I want to get done during my vacation.  I’ve also got a whole bunch of paperwork on my desk that needs sorting. 

Errands are done.  Somehow I never put those on my list so when I look at my list it looks like I’ve done next to nothing but I got a fleece blanket done while I watched a movie – Fair Game about the CIA agent who was exposed by the government.  Good movie and it was well worth borrowing from the library (heck it would be worth renting too).  I also started a gift for someone.  I am really LOVING the pattern.  I love discovering an easy pattern that works up nicely and looks so much better than I thought it would.  It amazes me how you can buy a skein of yarn and with a bit of skill turn it into something useful and beautiful. 

I’ve worked on transcribing this weekend and plan to do more.  I hope by the time I go to bed tonight I’ll have two of the four interviews done.  The client is waiting on them and I’m trying to meet the deadline.

We talked to the girls this weekend.  Mom is down there visiting.  It sounds like they are all having a great time.  I saw pictures on Facebook that shows the gardens they went to which had a ton of flowers – I do love flowers.

It has been a good weekend with down time balancing out all the other stuff that needs to get done.  I sat for a couple hours today and helped Vicki paint ornaments.  I enjoyed the intricacy of the wood ornament and the simplicity of just covering it with paint.
Now it is time to settle in to the real work of the week.  I have to revise two stories, start my final project, do some work for the union, edit some other papers and a whole list of other things.  I may not be at work this week but I’m still going to be working my bum off

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Annual Journal Entry

For the last five years, around my birthday I’ve written in my annual journal.  I have a daily journal I carry with me which gets all the daily chaos of my life.  I write in it when I feel the need to – the busier I get the less I write in it.  I try to get a page or two in regularly but it doesn’t always work. 

I read about a birthday journal five or six years ago and started one.  It is supposed to have remembrances from the last year, from my childhood, or other big picture thoughts. 

One year I wrote about as many of my memories as I could jam into a single sitting from my childhood.  Another year I wrote about the conflict in our family.  Last year was all about politics. 

This year, I will have to see what moves me.  There has been a lot going on in my life in the last year so I’ll have to see about the big picture. 

I know my birthday was nearly a month ago but mostly I haven’t had time to think about this deeply enough to do the entry.  In the last five years I’ve written in this journal anywhere from March to May.  If I can get it done, only three weeks after my birthday that will be pretty good.

Now I just have to figure out what big picture I want to write about – or if I want to tackle all of them….


Monday March 26, I'll be posting a blog entry from Barbara Ardinger.  You may have clicked on her link on this page.  She is an incredible author and editor.  She is funny and articulate.  I think you will enjoy her posting.  Come back on Monday to see Barbara's posting!!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One More Work Day!

Tomorrow is my last work day for a week.  Every morning I’ve woken up and said the number of days left until I am done for Spring Break and my vacation.  I’m looking forward to my vacation.  I was hoping for some serious writing time but sadly I think I’m going to be doing a lot of homework during my vacation. 

At work tomorrow I have a long laundry list of things to get done.  Hopefully I will clear off my desk of most of them.  I’m not holding my breath though.  I’m supposed to have two student workers and hopefully they both come in.  However, it is the Friday before spring break so I’m not sure who will be in and who won’t be.

Once I’m done tomorrow, my top priority will be to finish off the transcribing for my client.  I’m looking forward to finishing this job and getting paid.  I still haven’t heard anything on the other job I sent out a quote on.  I did a follow up email asking if they had any questions and got a bit of a sharp answer back.  My guess is the person is swamped and just hasn’t had time to work through it with the higher ups.

After I get the business out of the way, I have a long list of homework for both my classes.  I have reading and writing to do for both.  My Book Editing professor put the final assignment out for us to start on.  I’m quite excited about it.  I will get to do a presentation for my book.  I’ve been working on refining the proposal and even the manuscript which I thought was done but obviously it isn’t. 

Since I have both reading and writing to do for these classes it will give me the chance to spend time with my feet up so maybe my knees and ankles will stop hurting.  My list of homework is long and involved.  I’m hoping to get through a good chunk of it.

In addition to those two long lists of things to do while I’m on vacation I have a crafting list, genealogy list, and a writing list.  I need a longer vacation! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I wish this was a cry of completion but it isn’t.  I’m just tired of working on homework.  For Fiction Writing, I’ve read, done the critique and written a letter for each of the three stories we had to read.  I realized that the letters we have to write are very similar to the letters in Book Editing we have to write – only in Book editing it is only one (thankfully). 

I helped a class mate out by editing her paper, a sister out by discussing her paper, and I’ve played on Facebook – had to or go insane.  I still have an assignment for Book editing to do, read the rest of Chapter 9 which was due last week, and edit my two stories for Fiction Writing that I have to turn in for the final.  One of them is nearly there I think.  The other one is not. 

Today while it is a beautiful record high temperature outside with beautiful blue skies with puffy white clouds, I’ve been sitting at my laptop in my office working on homework.  I have transcribing to do and numbers to work on for budget stuff.  All I really want to do is take a nap. 

I got a rejection and an acceptance this week for my writing.  It is nice that it balanced out.  Usually it’s just rejections.  I have to get those noted on my spreadsheet. 

Ken has been VERY busy in the kitchen working on a project.  I can’t wait till it is done as I think it will improve the storage in the kitchen / dining room.  Vicki has been busy too.  Sasha has been napping and I just punished her by waking her up and rubbing her belly.  She didn’t seem overly punished though as she grabbed on to my hand and licked it while I rubbed…


I just read a story which moved me to tears and angered me on an issue I'm sure those who know me are starting to roll their eyes at already.  Abortion is one choice a pregnant woman currently has.  There are three choices.  Abortion, adoption, and parenting.  All of these options have pros and cons.  All of these options are incredibly difficult. 

The story I just read talked about what happened to a woman who didn't have a choice.  Not because she wanted to get rid of her fetus but because her fetus - which was supposed to grow into their much wanted and love child - was severely damaged. 

This woman received the worst news possible when she visited her doctor - there was something terribly wrong with their son.  Two doctors confirmed the diagnosis but because they were associated with a Catholic hospital they couldn't fix it - terminate the pregnancy. 

This woman had to go to a Planned Parenthood to get her abortion in Texas right after they passed a law giving very restrictive rules about what needs to happen when someone seeks an abortion.  Her story is here - grab some tissue and read what she had to endure:

Here is part of her last paragraph: 

But what good is the view of someone who has never had to make your terrible choice? What good is a law that adds only pain and difficulty to perhaps the most painful and difficult decision a woman can make? Shouldn’t women have a right to protect themselves from strangers’ opinions on their most personal matters? Shouldn’t we have the right not to know?

I want EVERY politician to answer these questions.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Early Day

By Wednesday, I’m so ready for an early day and fortunately most days I get to come home early.  Class is done at 3:30 and I just come home after.  Today I was a bum and played games on the computer.  Now though I have to get down to work. 

I laughed hard when I read a couple of blogs this week.  Check out Speak!  Good Dog!  You should check out her commentary on the Rush Limbaugh and birth control issue.  Beware though there is a bit of sarcasm involved (okay maybe more than that – I think she might now be in hiding from the sarcasm police!)

Also a friend of mine is agoraphobic and she has started a blog called In Loving Memory of My High Functioning Self.  She has a great sense of humor and laughs at herself while she explores her fears and anxiety.  At the same time she isn’t letting her life fall apart.  I know she doesn’t feel like it but she is one of the most amazing people I know and one of my favorite people.  Check out her blog it is pretty good. 

Both blogs have a link below.

On another note I recently had an assignment to write a report on any topic.  My professor found out I was part of a writers group so she asked if I would ask some of the writers about their experiences with publishers.  Well Barbara Ardinger, Kelley Harrell, Donna Henes, and Elizabeth Hazel (she does the astrology stuff I post) all were very generous with sharing their experiences.  In addition some have agreed to write a guest blog for here.  Barbara has been wonderful quick with it so when I get a few moments I’m going to get that posted here.  In the meanwhile, check out her blog and her books.

I’m off to deal with mundane things like supper and maybe some crocheting.  I have homework but I think tonight will be a down night.  Though I have some transcribing to do so I guess I’ll have to see how I feel once my tummy is full (usually it involves a stint in the recliner with me inspecting my eyelids for holes… or something like that).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Art of a Good Critique

There is an art to critiquing writing.  I had another short story critiqued last night.  I listened to the critique closely as I had written on a controversial topic.  The complements are nice.  They definitely stroke my ego but don’t really help me be a better writer. 

With each workshop, we are required to read the story and as we read it we edit it (think copy editing where you are looking for grammar mistakes, tone, punctuation, and so on).  In addition to the technical aspect of the writing we are also supposed to write about the content – what works, what doesn’t work, what we like and don’t like.  I take this part very seriously.  I edit like I would for my daughters or a client.

We then have to write a letter to the author summing up what we edited.  With each class period we hand these over to the author.  I’ve done mine each time.  I’ve read mine as well.  Sometimes as I’m reading the critiques I wonder about people’s comprehension levels because I can’t find what they are talking about in my story. 

Wading through these critiques is like trying to find a diamond in a pile of shit.  Crude maybe but true.  Most of what these people have to say is arrogant, condescending, and idiotic.  However, I’ve had some really thoughtful critiques.  These gems in amongst the crap are really helpful and thought provoking. 

Most people want you to write the way they want to read and if the story doesn’t go the way they think it should go then they don’t like it.  They don’t look beyond their personal preferences (I know I’m guilty of this which is why I wait to write my letter so I’m not writing it with my first gut reaction.)  The problem with this is they aren’t analyzing how it was written but how they reacted to it. 

When I find these gems, it usually inspires me to go back to the story for another revision.  It inspires me to edit thoughtfully and with impudence.  It can really spark the creative juices so that I can improve my work.  That is the point of the critique – to be relevant and constructive.  Something I hope I keep in mind when I do my own critiques and something I will continue to mine for when I read the critiques I have gotten.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


From the moment words started being published censorship became an issue.  There will always be topics which offend all sorts of people.  This offense can lead to a desire to say a book (or other discussion of the topic) should be banned or censored.

PayPal, a company that offers a secure online payment method, last month issued an ultimatum to Smashwords a distributor and self-publishing company.  Smashwords helps authors publish their books.  In the erotic section of the books offered some books contain what PayPal doesn’t like – bestiality, rape, and incest.

On February 14, the head of Smashwords was informed by PayPal that their book list needed to be cleaned up or their account would be limited.  According to Smashwords website, they have over 100,000 titles from over 37,000 authors.  Coker, head of Smashwords, emailed authors who responded with outrage over this attempt at censorship.

PayPal asserts that the banks and credit card associations they deal with are conservative and they have to adhere to their demands or lose business.  Coker urged authors and publishers to voice their opinions to PayPal and the credit card companies.

PayPal recently did the same to Bookstrand which resulted in Bookstrand dropping most Indie authors.  Coker is working with PayPal, the authors and publishers, and censorship / free speech groups to resolve this issue.  Fourteen of these groups signed a letter to PayPal condemning their actions. 

In general most people would agree that these topics can be offensive.  However, almost all the Greek (and other Pantheons) myths involve rape, incest, and even bestiality.  Will those be banned?  Many famous and classic stories have been banned like Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and Catch 22.  Controversial issues spring up in many forms.  For instance, gun control and gun usage can fall under the controversial heading.  Does this mean we should prevent stories and books on hunting or murder mysteries from being published?  Last of the Mohicans couldn’t be allowed than because that features guns.

Censorship is a complex and difficult topic.  Obviously few think the erotic fiction being targeted is classic literature.  PayPal is attempting to provide a standard.  It’s meant to keep offensive writing away from the public.  The problem with this type of censorship is it becomes a slippery slope that will easily domino into a landslide of banning books – good and bad – that shouldn’t be banned.  Additionally whose standard will the companies adhere to?  The standards of a few groups shouldn’t prevent books and stories from being printed.  There are so many groups choosing one standard is likely to offend a number of others.  Where would we be without our myths and books like To Kill a Mocking Bird?  If authors don’t push the envelope than how does society look at itself to determine what needs to be changed?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Domino Effect

Vicki went to bed early tonight, she’s got a cold.  I wandered into my desk with no more intentions than to play a few games and go to bed.  Mondays are rough for me – as I’ve said. 

This is not what happened though.  I started out answering emails.  A couple of my writer friends from a group responded to my request for them to answer interview questions.  These responses led me to working on the report for my book editing class.  From there I went to checking my school / work email, which led to my mail box nearly being full so I had to delete a bunch of stuff – like thousands of emails.  From there I checked my D2L account.  This is the school account where I have a link for each class and then I can turn in assignments, get information for the class and a variety of other things. 

That led to playing on Facebook.  I actually played the couple of games I was intending.  By the time I was done with that it was 10:00.  You would think I would just go to bed right?  Nope. 

While playing those games I was thinking about the story I turned in to my fiction writing class which I have to edit.  I switched over to editing it.  I have the first chapter done.  Oh it started out as a short story but I’m pretty sure it will be a novel or novella by the time I’m done. 

When I closed that for the night, I fell into my old habit of playing the Hoyle games I have on my computer.  I’m obsessed with Rummy 500, Spite & Malice, and Backgammon.  I have to play at least one game of each before I can go to bed.  I think I do this because it helps to shut down my brain.  After editing, I need the creative flow to slow enough so I can get to sleep and not have to pop up several times over the next hour to jot down just one more idea.

This lovely domino effect has led me to 11:45 pm and not in bed before midnight – yet again.  It is completely my own fault.  However, I’m glad I got all this stuff done.  It means I’ll have one or two fewer things to do over the weekend – I hope.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jammy Day?

My window shows that there are specks of white fluttering down to the snow covered ground.  More snow this morning and my first reaction is to grumble.  I think that is standard when we see the snow.  It is pretty though.  The white against the dark browns and grays of the tree right outside the window.  The white against the dark green of the evergreen tree across the road.  It is pretty and I don’t have to go anywhere today.  Perhaps I’ll even get time by the fireplace. 

At some point Ken will go out and shovel / snow blow the driveway.  So tomorrow when I get ready to leave the way will be clear – at least until the end of the drive.  I know we won’t have months of looking at the white snow turning dirty and grimy because this next week we are supposed to warm up enough for it to all melt. 

I guess I’ll have to stop grumbling over it and move on to my day.  The last two days I’ve gotten a bunch of stuff off my list done.  I’ve turned in my vision statement and read my chapters.  I’ve read the short stories we will critique in class, marked my critique on them and written the letters to go with.  I’ve transcribed half of what I needed to get done.  I still have stuff on my list of course.  I’m going to tackle those this morning but I am hoping that by the afternoon I’ll be able to sit by the fireplace and read a book – a fun book. 

Is it a jammy all day day?  I don’t know but I’m thinking it might be.  I don’t want to go out at all.  I just want to get done what needs doing and hope that I get a bit of down time.  This coming week I have two long days that I have to contend with being gone early and not getting back until late.  It would be good to have a quiet and restful day before that insanity starts.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sticks and Stones

There are certain words that men should never say.  I know that my friend Laura is rolling her eyes and thinking this is a male bashing moment for me but it isn’t.  I know that there are men – including my husband – who are outraged by what Rush Limbaugh had to say about a young woman who was trying to invoke her constitutional right of free speech. 

Sandra Fluke felt passionately that women should have birth control be freely accessible to all women because a friend suffered medical issues because she couldn’t afford to stay on her birth control. 

Rush Limbaugh took that genuine concern and valid medical reality and turned ugly.  He called Sandra Fluke a slut.  Not shocking in our society.  Any time a women gets out of line men turn to words like bitch (Newt Gingrich about Hilary Clinton – first lady at the time), slut, whore, and so on.  I’ve seen this happen on reality tv with boys calling their girlfriends these names.  I’ve seen it in business.  I’ve seen it in politics.

Here’s what I want to say – men use these words to make women feel powerless.  They throw them out there so that women have to defend their own honor instead of addressing the issues.  It is meant to hurt and distract from the actual issue. 

Limbaugh couldn’t refute her medical information so he vilely called her a slanderous name.  She now has to defend herself.  She should ignore him and keep pushing the issue at hand.  The discussion should be about birth control not about how contemptible and loathsome Limbaugh is for using slanderous words about this woman. 

Perhaps some smart lawyer would volunteer to assist Ms. Fluke in filing a defamation of character and slander suit against Limbaugh to stop such attacks in the future. 

My advice – for what it is worth – to Sandra Fluke.  Use the publicity of Limbaugh despicable comments to bring the focus back to the issue at hand – birth control being free for all women.  Use his words and extremism against him and keep the issue at the forefront of discussion.  Women for health reasons deserve to have free birth control regardless of the organization they work for or belong to.  An organizations beliefs should not come before the health and well being of an actual person.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday / Vacation

Just because my birthday was this week I took today off.  I was hoping for some down time but I am looking at my to do list and thinking I should have taken Thursday off too. 

Diana, my boss, told me to enjoy my vacation yesterday before she left.  I growled at her.  Now this doesn’t happen often because I like her and try not to annoy her.  After I growled she told me to have a bad day off.  I laughed and said it was just that I had so much to do. 

No surprise - I have a list.  I have three days to write a vision statement, read a couple of chapters for one class and three stories for another class, critique two stories and write letters discussing those critiques, transcribe two interviews, assemble and take pictures of zen gardens (which was on the to do list for last weekend) and that is just the first level of stuff to get done.  I also feel like I’m forgetting something so I probably am.

This morning while the house was quiet I’ve dealt with the hundred emails that had built up over the last two days and sent some business related emails.  Now I’m turning my focus to my to do list.  My biggest problem is deciding which to work on first.  Homework or business? 

I guess since the homework is due on Monday that should probably take priority but I also feel like I’ve not put enough time into the freelance work I have to do.  I guess I need to take a deep breath, pick from the pile and just dig in.  It will all get done because it has to but still deep breath, stop procrastinating and get to work.

Back at the Grindstone

With nine days off, you would think I got a lot accomplished.  I did when it comes to spending time with my girls but off my to-do list?  No...