Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

Sunday, January 24, 2021

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story



I've had the privilege of reading and reviewing many short stories by friends of mine. Being a writer of poetry and riddle books, I've never tackled a fictional short story online. As a young girl, I wrote many. However, as an adult, nope, never fictional.

Fiction wasn't my thing. Maybe it's this whole getting-older-stuff that gets us stepping out of our comfort zone? That's exactly what propelled me to write and publish my first poetry book in 2019, and since then, six riddle books. For some unknown reason, I had and still have a sense of urgency.

I blame time for my bravery to try new things. Time is knocking on my door, and my sense of it passing by too quickly is front and center these days.

So today's review is about jumping in and doing that one thing you've been hesitant to do. For me, it's writing a fictional story. So judge away, lol.


His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story by Barbara Tremblay Cipak

His Gift Was Knowing - A Short Story About Love and Light

She stood at the bottom of that radiant sun-soaked hill sobbing from a pain that she didn't fully understand. 

This kind of suffering was beyond anything Kathleen had ever experienced.

It hurt more than when her father unexpectedly died in his sleep from an unknown heart condition when she was only eighteen; and even more than her mother's difficult passing from dementia three months ago.  

At the top of that hill, Kathleen could see Jeffrey, dressed in a lovely black suit. Her heart could feel his soul as if he were still that precious two-year-old rusty haired boy she rocked to sleep every night for years. She wondered how he grew up so quickly into the dapper twenty-year-old she was looking at today.

Kathleen could see Jeffrey comforting his sister. Holly's strong independent nature couldn't console her on this day. At eighteen, Holly needed her brother's shoulder. Kathleen was grateful that her children were there for each other.

Then it hit her. 

Kathleen suddenly realized why she was feeling this indescribable pain. Her children were grieving, and she could feel every part of their anguish. The tears she cried were a combination of all her love, as well as theirs.

Kathleen remembered how it happened, how she died. 

Two weeks ago, life took a turn that led her to the road she was on today.
_________

It was a bright, beautiful Tuesday. With spring in full bloom, she remembered feeling like anything was possible. As she headed downstairs that morning, she had an unexpected moment of knowing that everything would be ok. It was so profound that it stopped her on the steps. She paused to inhale the gift and felt fortunate to be in tune with something that always felt personal to her, something cosmic.

While sitting in her kitchen, waiting for nothing, Kathleen was enjoying a fresh cup of morning coffee. Life had always been a struggle, but Kathleen managed to find rays of sunshine. She called them 'her moments of bliss.' 

Being a single mom, she tried hard to maintain an uplifting attitude. She couldn't afford to slip into hopelessness. She often said, 'my children save my life every day.' To her, that was the greatest gift, and being a good mother was the least she could do for what they gave to her; hope.

Doing everything and expecting nothing had been Kathleen's motto. "Just do," she used to say; the rest will take care of itself.

While sipping that coffee, her phone rang. It was a number she didn't recognize and almost didn't answer. But being a believer in chance, she thought maybe today good luck would shine upon them and send the money they desperately needed for Holly's medication. 

Holly suffered from a rare auto-immune disease and required expensive anti-inflammatories to keep her frequent seizures under control.  

She answered that unexpected call.

"Hello, Kathleen speaking." 
"Hi, is this Kathleen Summers?" 
"Yes, it is."
"Hello, this is the office of Brander and Dorval. We handled your father's Last Will & Testament."

Kathleen was confused. Her father didn't own anything; he didn't have anything. How could there possibly be a Will, and why would someone be contacting her thirty-seven years after his death about a Will!

"What?" Kathleen said sharply

"Yes, there is a Will, and Mr. Brander needs to speak to you about it. Could you come in today, how's 1:00 pm?"

Although nearly speechless from shock, Kathleen agreed. 

Kathleen could hear both her kids shuffling upstairs as they readied themselves for their day. Jefferey loved animals and worked to save money to go to school to become a Veterinarian. His determination alone woke him daily for his job. Never late, always dependable. That was Jeffrey.

Holly never let her health stand in her way. She was about to finish her last semester of High School. Her curiosity about her auto-immune disease led her to want to study within that field. Maybe a doctor, perhaps a researcher; she hadn't figured that out yet.

Kathleen was proud of their determined spirit. It hadn't been easy for them; lack of money was always the mountain they had to climb, but her kids never let that stop them from dreaming. 

Kathleen headed upstairs to ready herself for her unexpected appointment and let the kids know she would be out for the afternoon. She didn't tell them about the strange call since she wasn't sure it was real.

Hugging both kids as they left for the day, Kathleen reminded them she wouldn't be working from home this afternoon, and not to worry, she had an errand to run. "Love you both," she shouted. "Love you back mom, bye, have a great day!"

The Law Office was grand. This company had been in business practically forever. As she walked into the ornate building, she wondered how on earth her father could afford this caliber of a lawyer. "Nah," she said to herself, "This has to be a mistake."

A lovely, tall, dark-haired lady led her into Mr. Brander's office.

Mr. Brander proceeded to introduce himself and encouraged her to take a seat. 

Kathleen exclaimed, "this is a mistake; you must have the wrong Kathleen Summers."

"I'll get right to it, Ms. Summers." He pulled out a large brown envelope. Inside the envelope were instructions given to the law firm.

Mr. Brander pulled out a photo and asked Kathleen, "Is this your father?"

Almost fainting, Kathleen nervously answered in question format, "Yes?"

"Ms. Summers, your father left you an inheritance, not to be opened until this day."

Mr. Brander proceeded, "In these instructions, we're asked to give you this black notebook along with this key."

Mr. Brander informed her that the key was to a safety deposit box at a bank not too far from here and that he would have to accompany her to access the box. However, she would have to read what was in the black notebook first, as those were her father's instructions. 

"It's private, only for you." Mr. Brander led her to a boardroom where she could quietly process the unexpected gift that was left to her thirty-seven years ago. 

Kathleen opened the cover.

"To my darling Kathleen and her children."

She gasped out loud, "how was that possible!"  She hadn't had children when her dad had died. 

She turned that first page and began to read.
__________

My Dearest Kathleen:

You have the same gift I do. From the moment you were born, I knew within you was the gift of knowing. You always seem to understand that in the end, everything would be ok. 

From as far back as I can remember, maybe back to when I was two or three, I could see significant events coming next. Everyone else calls it psychic; I call it life. I don't know why or how I have this gift, but it is a part of me. 

I'm writing this letter because, in less than a week, I'll be gone. I know I'm destined to die in my sleep. Rest assured, it will be from natural causes. You'll later find out I had a heart condition. I've seen several doctors about it, but all tests showed nothing substantial. However, I know I won't live. It's the same knowingness you carry about life.

You'll have two kids, and I know one of them will have a medical condition. I can't tell you any of this now, at eighteen. You wouldn't understand or believe me. But mostly, you don't need to know about this blessing and burden at such a young age. So I decided to handle things this way.

My grandchildren needed to be taken care of, so I started early in life making sure they would be alright. You'll eventually understand why this is so important and why I did things this way.

Go with the lawyer to open that safety deposit box. Please pass all its contents along to your children. I promise you; it will eventually make sense.

Love you more than you could  know - until we meet again,

Dad
_________

Kathleen felt both grateful and fearful, but a part of her was angry. 

"Why would dad leave something for children I didn't have and never think to leave things to me?" She wasn't jealous about the gift for her kids; she was baffled. 

Mr. Brander opened the boardroom door and asked her if she was ready to go to the bank. On the drive there, Mr. Brander informed her that her father and his father had been good friends and that it was his father who initially worked on her dad's Will. "Before my dad died, he filled me in on your dad's wishes and the Will our firm was holding for you," I promised him I would take care of it when the time came.

Inside the little room, and in her father's lawyer's presence, Kathleen opened the safety deposit box.

There were two large brown envelopes.

Printed on one envelope was "Open this one first," and on the other, "Open this one last."

Kathleen opened the first envelope to find another letter from her father.
_________

Dearest Kathleen; 

To help your children, my grandchildren achieve their purpose in life, I've taken steps to ensure they would have the resources they needed to achieve their goals and complete their contribution.

You'll find in the next envelope that I've invested $20,000 in a safe stock portfolio held by this bank. By the time you open this letter, it should be worth between 140,000 and 200,000 dollars. The bank can help you with those details.

Please ensure your children get all the documents and my letters.
__________

Kathleen felt more than loved. She began to get that cosmic sense she was accustomed to, that there's still more to this story. It both scared her and comforted her.

Mr. Brander handed her all the documents, including the little black notebook with her dad's initial letter, and they hugged and parted ways for the day. They planned to meet at the bank in the coming days to establish the value of the inheritance her father left to her children.

Kathleen arrived home at about 5:00 pm. Both Jeffrey and Holly were preparing dinner. "Hi, mom," they cheerfully blurted. "Where were you?"

"Well, you aren't going to believe my day; you both better sit down." Kathleen then proceeded to tell them the entire day's events.

The kids were beyond shocked. Like their mom, they were a bit confused about why their grandfather would wait all these years to give them this inheritance and why it would go to them. 

Later that night, as they were all preparing for bed, Kathleen hugged both of her kids, told them she loved them, and said, "Let's sleep on it tonight; maybe things would be clearer in the morning."

Kathleen died in her sleep that night.
__________

She understood the purpose of her father's Will now. As she stood at the bottom of that hill watching her kids at the top, she knew they were visiting her grave. She noticed something tucked under Jeffrey's arm; it was that little black notebook.

Suddenly Kathleen's tears stopped, and beside her stood both her father and her mother. Her first words were, "Mom, you knew all this time." "I did, dear, I always trusted your father's gift of knowing. We both planned this for you.

The three of them walked towards the children at the top of the hill. As they stood beside them, they heard Holly speaking. "Thank you, mom, for all you did for us. Grandpa's $20,000 investment is worth over $300,000 today. That's enough for Jeffrey and me to go to school. I'm going to be a Doctor, mom, and Jeffrey is going to be a Veterinarian. We promise to make you proud.

Kathleen, with joyful tears, had no doubt they would.

Kathleen's father let her in on the biggest secret of all. "Do you know why we did this?" Kathleen answered, "Yes, to help the kids achieve their dreams." 

Her dad said, "That was one reason, but not the main reason. Holly will be part of a global discovery on how to help those who suffer from auto-immune diseases. It will be the breakthrough of her time. She's going to help a lot of people. And Jeffrey won't just be Veterinarian; he's going to be a major contributor to one of the largest animal rescue facilities in the country."

"And you knew this when you were little, dad?" "Yes, I did," he replied.

"How?" she asked. "I don't know, we all have a gift; we just have to open our minds to see it and believe it.

As Jeffrey and Holly walked away, Kathleen asked her mother and father, "where are we going now?"

"Home Kathleen, we're going home."

__________

I had originally written this story to enter a contest but then decided against it. So there you have it, one more step outside of that familiar comfort zone.

Have you ever stepped outside of your comfort zone?





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Sunday, November 8, 2020

Basic Tips I Learned on My Self-Publishing Journey

Self-Publishing Tips for Newbies

Let me start by saying that I'm NOT a self-publishing guru. I'm just a work-from-home-self-taught woman who decided to jump in and tackle some of those dreams left dying on the table.

I've written quite a bit here on ReviewThisReviews about self-publishing books. You'll find a list of the links below.

To date, I've self-published eight books and am currently writing the ninth. 

The topic of the books are Riddles, Poetry, and Sayings for Cards. Currently, I'm focussed on building a series of Riddle Books. There are five riddle books in the series and the sixth should be published in one to two months.

A General Overview of What to Do When You Self-Publish (According to my Personal Journey)


Note: To date, I've only published via Amazon's KDP self-publishing platform

  • Amazon Author Page: Once you've published your book, complete a detailed page about yourself on Amazon's Author Central Page. Here's Amazon's author central page for the USA. When publishing my books, I had to create author central pages for the UK and USA separately. Perhaps, Amazon will amalgamate things at some point, so we only have to do it once. Here's the UK author central page in case you need it.

  • Amazon Author Page Photo: Decide whether your Author Central page will feature a Logo or your personal photo. At first, I put up my logo but changed it to my personal photo. I prefer to emphasize that I'm just a regular person, not a 'big company.' 

  • Build a Website that Relates to Your Books: If you've never built a website or can't, you can hire someone or just build a blog related to your books. I've built websites (I'm not a website building guru either!), so I was able to create a website to coincide with my Riddle Books. You can take a look at my StumpedRiddles.com website here. Think about how you want people to navigate your site before you build it; write it out, give it a lot of thought. The ease at which people can work their way through your website is important. The top navigation bar on my riddles website features these tabs: Home, Riddles, Answers, Riddle Books, About/Contact. Within those headings are subheadings. Don't forget to include all the legal jargon you need on the site.

  • Facebook Business Page: Build a business Facebook page that features a Shop with your books. It takes a little learning, and you need a certain amount of products before you can build a shop. I chose to link my books back to each of their product pages on my website; that way, when you publish your book on multiple platforms (not just Amazon), you don't have to worry about changing links - since each product/book will direct back to your own product page on your own site.

  • Social Media Main Photo & URL Names: Create social media pages for your business/books. Decide whether you want to use your logo or your personal photo. I decided to use my Riddles logo for my social media pages, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. However, I created a Promo-Video and included that video at or near the top of each social media site: It features my personal photo and personal story. You'll have to choose your social media URL based on what's available; I wasn't able to get "Riddles" - it was taken. However, I choose URL's that were close: Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Promo-Video: Create your promo video using your favorite video platform. I used Animoto. If your book/business dictates it, I would suggest being personal while describing your books' purpose. You can take a look at the promo video I created here.

  • Your Tag Line and Book Purpose: If you're able to establish a "purpose" for your books, create a consistent tag-line that describes your purpose and includes that tag line on your social media, website, and books. The tag-line I came up with is "Turn the World Off With a Smile." It's a twisted variation of a lyric line in the Mary Tyler Moore theme song. I know, I'm aging myself! That lyric was "she can turn the world on with her smile." Given the craziness of the world today, I decided my riddles are created for the distinct purpose of helping people to "turn the world OFF with a smile."
Here are some additional articles I've written relating to self-publishing - Again, I'm not a guru, just learning as I go!

As I learn more, I'll add more articles here on ReviewThisReviews. My next learning journey will be how to self-publish on platforms other than Amazon. That should be challenging.

Here's the first riddle book I created - I went through several cover designs before finally deciding on this one:

#StumpedRiddles - Riddle Book
#Stumped - Riddle Book - First Volume






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Sunday, July 26, 2020

12 Step Summary of Preparation Tips for Creating a Niche Book Series

Preparation Tips for Creating a Book Series

In October of 2019, I decided it was time to tackle one item on my bucket list: To publish a book featuring a collection of my personally written poems.

I've written several articles on my experience as a newbie self-publisher. Here's my most recent article that talks about Glossy versus Matte Finish Book Covers.

In the beginning, self-publishing wasn't easy! In fact, it took perseverance, patience, and a bit of holy water followed by soap to wash my mouth out with!

Creating My Series of Riddle Books

Once the poetry book was under my belt, I decided to create a series of Riddle Books. I have this crazy knack for writing riddles, so I decided to use this quirky ability for books.

My driving force for writing riddle books is to create something light, fun, and distracting. It turns out 2020 needs a lot of that!

I started with one book, then decided to create a series under the same topic. I'll keep adding to this series until my mind runs out of ideas.

To date, I've written and self-published four riddle books. I've just completed the content for Riddle Book number five, Halloween Riddles, which is scheduled to be published in August 2020. I also have a sixth riddle book halfway completed but don't have a date planned for that release yet.

Although I'm not a guru-self-publisher, I'd like to share my own process for creating a series of books for a niche. Note that as of this date, I've self-published via Amazon's Self-Publishing platform; however, I plan to expand to other writing platforms in a few months. I'll write about that learning process later.

Note: These are summary tips. I didn't delve into the detail of each. The tips are meant to give you a mental picture of the entire thought process before you dive into the process. In other words, things to consider if you're truly serious about your endeavor.

My Personal Twelve-Step Summary Guide to Creating Your Own Niche Series of Self-Published Books:
  1. Choose a topic for your series of books.
  2. Write and self-publish your book in both eBook and Paperback format. 
  3. Don't rush, take it one book at a time and don't limit yourself to a specific number of books.
  4. Decide if the format for each book will be the same: For example number of chapters, introductions, closing pages, and structure.
  5. Be willing to change your covers several times in the beginning if needed - I did this a lot.
  6. Create a website that reflects your book's topic.
  7. Design and decide upon a Logo for your series.
  8. Create a business Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page for your book's topic.
  9. Create engaging posts about your book's topic on these social media business accounts.
  10. Create a video that speaks about who you are and put that video on your website and your social media accounts.
  11. Include your social media links and website links at the back of your ebooks and paperback books. Be sure to follow Amazon's rules on links in eBooks.
  12. Create and set-up your Amazon Author page - be sure to link to your website's RSS feed to your Author Page so that the new posts on your websites are updated automatically to your author page. 

Here's a Four eBook Series of My Riddle Books

Amazon automatically created an eBook Series for me. In other words, I didn't have to create the amazon page that offered my eBooks as a series. They put two and two together and created the page. However, for a paperback series, I'll have to assemble that offer to the public myself. I'll let you know how that goes - I still have to learn how to do it!

My About Me Video

Here's the video I created for my Website and Social Media Websites. It's intentionally not 'guru-professional.' My goal was to introduce myself to my followers - to be real - to be who I am, nothing more. There are several video services you can use online, I used Animoto.


Again, these tips are meant as an overview to help you consider the big picture before you start writing your book series.

Happy Creating!


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Sunday, June 28, 2020

Matte or Glossy Covers on a Self Published Book? Which One To Choose?



That is the question, matte or glossy?

Let me start off by admitting that I'm not a self-publishing guru! The entire self-publishing process has been self taught.

In 2019 I made a decision to tackle a bucket list item; publish my personally written life's collection of poetry. Since then, and to this date, via Amazon Self-Publishing (KDP), I've self-published a total of seven books, and am in the middle of writing my eighth and ninth book.

I've written multiple times about the learning curve to self-publishing. I have to admit it wasn't easy. However, now that I have a few books under my belt, I'm learning more about the nuanced details that make a difference in a book's appearance and presentation.

As an example, I learned how to create professional-looking book covers, and have changed my covers multiple times to what they are as of this date. I actually made another slight modification to one of them again today! I'm planning on stopping these changes soon - Nah, probably not lol - but hopefully I'll get the covers to a place where I'm completely satisfied! Building book covers from scratch is tough at first, but after you get the hang of it, it's a ton of fun and very addictive!

A Matte or Glossy Finish on the Cover of Your Self-Published Book - Which Should You Choose?

I googled the crap out of this. Watched videos - you know, the usual stuff we do when we have questions. However, I didn't get a suitable answer. So, when I published the first editions of each book, I decided to go with a matte finish for the covers.

Guess what? For my books, a glossy finish is much nicer and more practical. So, I'm in the process of changing them all to glossy. I'll do all future books in a glossy cover format from now forward.

Why a Glossy Cover Works for This Genre of Books

I write riddle books, books about sayings for cards, and of course, a poetry book. I haven't written, nor plan to write novels. Novel covers may be better in a matte finish, but honestly, I can't give you advice on that.

For Activity Books (Like My Riddle Books & Saying Books and Poetry Books), Here's Why I Believe a Glossy Cover is Best
  1. These types of books are picked up and put down often, and a glossy cover is more durable. The matte cover actually ended up with smudged fingerprints on it from too much handling. 
  2. They look way more professional with glossy covers! My husband put it this way - he said, 'the matte finish made it look like it was purchased at the dollar store, and a glossy finish gives it a bookstore feel' - Yikes!
  3. A glossy cover feels nicer to hold in your hands (a personal thing)
  4. The shiny cover helps the colors to pop more. With fun activity books, the colors are essential, so yah ... glossy all the way for that reason alone.
  5. The matte finish looks more like a school book, the glossy finish gives it an 'author feel.'
The Cellphone Photos of the Books Below Don't Really Capture the Difference Between Matte and Glossy However There is A Big Difference:


Both of These Riddle Books Have a GLOSSY COVER
 #STUMPED - A Party Game

The Book on the Left is a MATTE Finish
The Book on the Right is a GLOSSY Finish
Boredom Buster Riddles - #Stumped Volume 4

The final vote of approval came from my adult kids and my husband, they all agreed that the glossy covers were superior to the matte covers. Sorry matte.

My Non-Guru Self-Publishing Journey in Articles:
1. How to get started on that eBook you've been meaning to do for decades
2. Confessions of a Newbie Self-Publisher
3. 5 Helpful Tools from a Newbie Self-Publisher
4. 3 More Tips from a Newbie Self-Publisher


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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Reviewing the Moon Hare

Have You Seen The Moon Hare Or Moon Rabbit?

Have you noticed the Moon Hare or the Moon Rabbit instead of the "man in the moon"? I still remember being on a date many years ago and being introduced to the rabbit on the moon. The guy I was with at the time pointed it out and ever since then I no longer see a man's face but a rabbit or more specifically a hare. Little did I know back then, that there is a place in Asian mythology for that Moon Hare. 

moon hare
Hares and rabbits have been on my mind
image courtesy of pixabay.com
A few weeks back, I wrote about fear and how rabbits seemed to be hopping into my mind a lot, lately. Well, I'm still sort of consumed with the furry little creatures. Turns out there is a reason why. I'm currently working on a new book in a new genre (for me anyway) and the hare is playing a significant part in the story. (More about that later.)


Moon Hare In Asian Mythology


As I have researched the hare for my book, I have discovered a few things about the creature. First of all, a hare is different from a rabbit. The hare is larger, has longer ears, and tends to be more solitary than its cousin the rabbit. Hares live above ground instead of below. They do share a lot of the same characteristics.

Most of the time the mythical hare in the moon is said to be using a mortar and pestle. In Chinese folklore the Moon Hare is pounding the elixir of life for Chang'e the Moon Goddess. She brought the hare with her when she moved to the moon after having drank the elixir of life. She wanted to forever watch over her husband Houyi the archer. In Japanese and Korean folklore the Moon Hare is pounding the ingredients for rice cakes.

Having this information helped me to firm-up an idea in my head for the character of Jipsee who is sent to Khenlee to be her wisdom companion in her journey through life as a healer and Shaman. Khenlee is special and she is given a special spirit animal. The girl is of two races of her world. So, I wanted something that was special to at least two different cultures. The hare fit perfectly. I've mentioned the Asian mythology but the hare is also significant in Celtic mythology, too. It was seen as being supernatural and associated with the moon. They were looked upon as mysterious and magical by the Celts. Seemed like a good fit for an animal guide for young Khenlee. The hare was also special to the Northern European Saxon Goddess Eostre. (Easter was named after her).

Building a World and a Story


So, as I build a different world I'm having good and bad 'hare' days. The book will be in the YA Fantasy genre which is turning out to be a lot of fun to write. The working title right now is Khenlee of Alerassa, although, I might change that up a bit. The gods have spoken, they want Khenlee to be the next Shaman/healer for the village of Alerassa. She is 12, she doesn't want to be a healer, and she struggles with the same angst that girls of her age do here on Earth. She also faces the prejudice of people due to her dual heritage. When Jipsee comes to her, they don't exactly fall in love with each other. The hare is disgusted that she is meant to work with a child that appears to be less than bright. The girl doesn't even know the difference between a hare and a rabbit. How in Ethoria can she become a wise woman who heals the bodies and souls of mortal creatures? It is beyond Jipsee's understanding. Khenlee believes the gods are playing a practical joke on her. How can she depend on a creature who is afraid of its own shadow?

The two will travel and grow together throughout the story. They will help each other and they will argue with each other but in the end they will become what they were destined to be. 

So, anyway, I've shared a little about the Moon Hare from a few cultures. I've given you a short look into the world in my head. I think I might need to get myself a stuffed animal to sit on my desk as I type out the words. I thought this one was kind of cute....




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Sunday, November 24, 2019

How to Write a Riddle? Six Basic Tips

A Review of 6 Tips on How You Can Write Your Own Riddles

Have you ever written a riddle? It's a crazy knack I happen to have. Today I'll share some of the riddles I've created with a few tips on how you can write your own.

Why Riddles?

Along with sayings for greeting cards, I've been writing riddles for most of my life. The ability to toss out one-liners seems to be a genetic anomaly in my family. My dad could make people laugh on a dime; he was hilarious! That chip landed on my brother, and he too can toss out funny lines anywhere, any time.

It seems the verbal skills possessed by my dad and brother transferred to me in writing form.

So why riddles? Here's why: This world is too serious right now, so to break-up the constant barrage of negative coming at us, I decided to create books about riddles, quotes, and sayings. But in this article, I'll be sharing some tips on how to write a riddle.

An Example of One of My Personally Written Riddles:

I am a word that has three letters,
but I'm actually six letters long,
I'm used when thinking or trying to figure
what may have gone wrong,
here is a clue that may help you,
four of my letters are the same,
and the first three letters spell a body part, 
or an animal's name,
What word am I?

(Take a guess in the comment section - try not to peek at other comments in case they've guessed the answer correctly!)

How to Write a Riddle

1. Choose the Answer First

Start with the answer. Pick the word you want to write the riddle about, then go from there.

2. Choose a Word that Has Multiple Meanings or can be Expressed Multiple Ways

It's easier to write a riddle about a word that has more than one meaning (spelled the same, or spelled differently). For example, Aunt/Ant, Fly, Park, Plant. These types of words give you the ability to create the riddle from various angles.

Here's an example of one of my riddles with an answer that has multiple meanings:

It's said we all have one
those who believe never doubt,
that everyone is included,
no one is left out,
we also say it to mean
"there's only one,"
and when it's spelled differently
we use it to run,
wait, don't be confused because
I'll give you some pity,
when spoken out loud
it's the name of a city,
What word am I?

3. It Doesn't Have to Rhyme

Some people can rhyme anything, and others, not so much. Your riddle will work either way. If you're not great at rhyming, think about writing the riddle with a rhythm.

Here's an example of another of my riddles using rhythm:

You write them
you get them
you give them
you hate them
you love them
you dread them
you need them
but you probably
never ever want them
What am I?

4. It's Easier to Write Riddles About Things You Can't Physically See

Try writing a riddle using a word that represents the unseen such as, thoughts, ideas, gravity, love, grace, nasty, and so on. Think 'invisible' - You get the picture.

5. Think About What People Can Relate to with the Word/Answer

When you're writing your riddle, think about how people relate to the word. As an example, the riddle in point number three above is obscure and can technically have more than one answer (although there is a specific answer to it).

In riddle two, the meanings are different, the answer is spelled multiple ways, and the clues are more specific. As an example the specific clues are; everyone has one, it means just one, you use it to run, it's the name of a city.

6. Test Your Riddles Out on Your Friends and Family

See how difficult it is for your people to answer; if they never solve any of them, they're probably too complicated. Mix it up, create both easier riddles and more challenging riddles. For Thanksgiving, my family used my riddles for a fun after-dinner game. The game was to see who could solve them the fastest. It was quite comical to hear them yelling over each other.

If the above riddles are frustrating you, there's more where that came from here, and you'll be guided to the riddle answers from that page as well.

Your Assignment:

Write a riddle that has the answer, "Park" - have fun!

By the way, in my book (A Party Game #STUMPED), you'll find my riddle for the word "Park" on page 70 (it's riddle 56).


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Spiral Notebooks Reviewed

Keyboard or Spiral Notebook?

writing notebook
Spiral notebooks come in handy for an author
image courtesy of pixabay.com
Spiral notebooks are not just for students attending school. Let me review how this author uses them on a daily basis. 

When writing a manuscript, I use my laptop keyboard for the bulk of the work. I guess that is probably a no brainer. Although, I do know authors who write it all out in long-hand before they type it up for submission or publication. Honestly, for me that would never work. When the story is flowing, my hand wouldn't be able to keep up with my brain if I were writing it down with a pen or pencil. I might be able to scribble it out but it would just that...scribbles that I would not be able to read later.

What I use my spiral notebooks for

While working on a book, I write down a copious amount of notes. I'll be honest, sometimes those are done on scrap pieces of paper, especially if I am researching something that won't be a recurring piece of a series of books. For instance, in the 4th book of my Roni Rainer mystery series I needed to be sure I understood how an APB (all points bulletin) worked. My notes about that were on scrap paper because the information would be disposable after I finished that particular book. Funny thing happened on the way to writing the story, I found out that not many law agencies use that term any longer. The acronym BOLO (be on the look-out) is more commonly used today. (Good to know.) Obviously, being a stickler to details I used BOLO in the book, but I digress.

My spiral notebooks are used for things that will show up many times in a series. You know, like characters, buildings, towns, and things like that. So, I have a notebook dedicated to those little tidbits. Each character has a section reminding me of their full name and nickname. Their date of birth, physical attributes, personality traits, and any relationships they might be in. Trust me that comes in real handy for characters that just pop-in and out of the books! 

Places have a special section, too. What State does the story take place in? What county? The town and neighboring towns need to be recorded. What are the street names? Which streets intersect with each other?  I wouldn't want to say that Roni's shop is on the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street in one place and then later say it was 3rd Street or even something entirely different. I guess that I could but as a reader those sorts of things drive me up a wall. 

I even have a section for buildings in my spiral notebooks. Yep, I need to be able to look back and see how I described a building once in a while. If I have described Roni's business building as two-story and then have someone go to the third floor, people are going to pick-up on that. At least, I would as a reader.


The devil is in the details


Nothing bugs me more as a reader than the author not being consistent. If an author has told me that a character has blonde hair and blue eyes and then later someone looks into her green eyes; that really gets my blood boiling. So, I pay attention to details as I write and the most efficient way for me to accomplish that is with notebooks. If it might come up again, it gets recorded for me to refer back to. Sure, I could create a file but it is actually faster to look in the notebook. At least for me it is. 

Now, that I have begun a new series of cozy mysteries I need more notebooks! The series will be called Cabin 9 Mysteries. The same pieces of information will be kept in a notebook for those stories, too. It is the only way I can keep it all straight. I'll need to remember that these characters are not in the fictional county of Butler, Indiana where Roni lives. No, they will be in the fictional county of Fairburn, Indiana. The spiral notebooks will help me keep it all consistent. Want a little hint about this new series? Taylor, the main character, can see and talk to dead people! Her great-aunt Magdalene is a hoot and also a spirit who doesn't want to leave Cabin 9. Stay tuned for more details!

As a side note, there is a reason that my fictional towns are in Indiana. I grew up here. I know the terrain, the climate, the flora and fauna, the local phrases, laws, and foods. I can portray it more realistically for my readers. Have you ever read a book that you could tell the author had never ever been in the place they have as their setting?  I've recently read two of them! Why would you write a story that takes place in a country you have never been to? If you are going to attempt that feat, at least do a whole lot of research about the area. Please! It annoys your readers if you get it wrong!

Anyway, I think you get my point on the need for spiral notebooks as an author. Do you use them for something different? I have found them a great thing to have extras of when the grandchildren visit. We can draw together, we can practice our math, we can practice our letters and sometimes we write a story together. We NEVER do those things in Grandma's "special" notebooks. Not ever!




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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hobby Time from the Review This! Contributors




hob·by - an activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure. 

January is known as National Hobby Month.   The contributing writers here on Review This! each have their favorite ways to enjoy a relaxing pursuit and have written many reviews of various how-to books, crafting supplies and DIY tutorials, gardening tips, recipes & kitchen aids for the cook, photography lessons, reading or listening to music, sports, and a host of other hobbies. 

These are but a few of the hobbies enjoyed by the Review This crew. The list of hobbies is almost endless.  If you are interested in looking for what we writers here have reviewed, type in the name of your 'hobby' either in the box in the top left-hand corner of any Review This page, or in the search box down the right-hand side. By looking at the author's name, you won't have any problem figuring out which HOBBY is each writers' favorite! For instance, mine  (Wednesday Elf) is crochet and my hobby is shared by several other contributors here, so we learn and share with each other. A more comprehensive list is shown below.


National Hobby Month




Begun by the Hobby Guild of America in 1955,  National Hobby Month was celebrated in April until 1976, then in October until 1986.  Since then, it has been celebrated during the month of January. 

January was most likely chosen for National Hobby Month as it is the beginning of a new year and a good time to start a new hobby.  Many people have never had hobbies during their working years or while raising a family and begin one in their retirement or after the children are grown.  Others try many hobbies throughout their life before finding one or two that gives them the most enjoyment. 


Hobby Examples on Review This!



Hobbies can be passive (such as crafting, reading, writing, listening to music or watching a movie) or an activity such as gardening, cooking or participating in sports. Many people have more than one hobby and often combine them, such as listening to music while crafting. 

In addition to writing reviews here on Review This!, most of the contributing writers here write for their own blogs and websites.  Writers consider writing to be more work than hobby, so time away from writing is important. That's where the activities done in our leisure time become such a pleasure. It is also interesting to note that the passion we feel for our hobbies is shown in many of the subjects we write about.


  • Barbara Tremblay Cipak (Brite-Ideas) is crazy about country music and frequently writes about the artists and their music she is so passionate about.  She is also loves to experiment with color in home décor. 
  • Dawn Rae does crochet and participates in a group of fellow jeep owners.  She also enjoys gardening and lately 'learning about homesteading'.
  • Cynthia Sylvestermouse is a freelance writer and photographer who loves all different kinds of crafts, including crafting in the kitchen, creating fancy cakes and cupcakes. 
  • Barbara (BarbRad) is an expert on books and loves to read.  She is also a nature photographer who most enjoys photographing her central California area. 
  • Mary Beth Granger (MBGphoto) is a fabulous photographer who continually takes photography classes to learn more.  Photography has become her passion in her retirement, along with traveling.  Lighthouses and beaches are her favorite subjects. 
  • Wednesday Elf loves crochet and needlework, watching baseball and reading. 
  • Beverly Owens is busy researching her Native American Indian heritage and loves to write about spirit animals and the wisdom of her ancestors. She also enjoys crocheting. 
  • Olivia Morris loves gardening and following the fashion world.
  • Brenda Little (Treasures By Brenda) collects coffee mugs and researches the history of vintage cups and other vintage items which she shares in her eBay store.  She also loves reading, great movies, cooking, and pop culture. 
  • Diana Wenzel (Renaissance Woman2010) enjoys an off-the-grid lifestyle where she pursues her interests in animal rescue, wonderful nature photography, and DIY projects. She also loves to read. 
  • Louanne Cox (Lou16) loves reading, 80s music, zombies and dolls, among a host of other interests. 
  • Heather Burns (Heather426) is an artist, illustrator and graphic designer. Her hobby is her artistic accomplishments, including the colored pencils she has created for coloring pages and coloring books. 
  • Coletta Teske is a published book author and loves to sew. 
  • Sam Monaco enjoys cooking and he has a passion for preserving old family recipes. These can be found on his blog Sam's Place. He also loves history.
  • Jasmine Ann Marie Annie (Raintree Annie) loves gardening and nature. Her favorite hobby is photography and photographing the wildlife, animals and birds in nature.

These are just the highlights of hobbies and interests I have observed from the articles they publish and the interaction we have as a team here on the staff of Review This!.  I am sure there are other interests each of them have.  


Quick View Home Page



By clicking on the Quick View Home Page button at the top of any Review This! page, you will have weekly examples of many of the articles your hobbyists here enjoy (plus many non-hobby reviews).  

Stop by the comments section and tell us your favorite hobby or activity. The Review This! staff would love to hear about what gives you pleasure in your leisure time.

(c) Written by Wednesday Elf on 1/20/2018







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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Reviewing A Thesaurus

A Most Important Tool For Writing

writing desk
Writing Center image courtesy of Pixabay.com
My decision to review a thesaurus in today's post might seem a little lame at first glance. Stick with me for a bit and you will see why I think that every home and office should have at least one available.

I, along with the other reviewers here at Review This, do quite a lot of writing. Most of us write a post here each week while maintaining our own sites in other locations on the web. It would not be far-fetched for me to assume that each of us probably has at least one thesaurus that we refer to often. Mine is sitting right here next to me as I compose this post. I pick it up and use it several times every single day.

Now, I realize that not everyone considers themselves writers, as we do, but that isn't exactly the case. Adults frequently need to compose a letter or a report pertaining to their jobs. (You should know that I just picked up my thesaurus to find a better word for often and decided on frequently in that last sentence.) College students are required to write a term paper for some of their classes. A thesis might be required for many degrees. High school, middle school and even elementary school students will need to write reports about different subjects during the years that they attend school. In all of these instances the person is temporarily a writer. 

Certainly, we all have the option of looking up words (synonyms or antonyms) on an online thesaurus. Those have been available for quite a while. My preference is an actual book that I can pick up and search through quickly. I don't have to open a new window or switch screens. My writing is still in front of me and I can return to it swiftly. (I just used my thesaurus again choosing swiftly over quickly.) See how that works?

Personally, I think that if we encourage our young students to get into the habit of using this tool for their writing needs; we are also helping them practice searching for words in alphabetical order along with spelling skills. Adults will be better adept at this but even they learned at one time the order of the alphabet when looking a word up. Whether the writer is very young, middle-aged or even elderly their finished product will be a much better piece if they have taken a few minutes to find a variety of words to use in their text. Can anyone remember a paper returned from the teacher with several red marks and a note that says, "You used this word 15 times! Choose different words from time to time."

As a writer, it is my desire, to create a pleasant reading experience for anyone who might read what I have written. I don't want to sound repetitive or appear that I have a very small vocabulary. I think whether it is a conscious goal or not; most people who are writing something want it to be received well. A thesaurus can be invaluable for that very purpose.

It is probably no surprise that I think that giving a child a tool that will help them write better is a very good idea. They may not be looking to make a career out of writing but they will from time to time be required to write something. That "something" will be better if they know how to find synonyms to use to say the same thing in a different way. A by-product is that they will have a much better vocabulary.

As I stated before; I use my thesaurus regularly each day. I have found it extremely helpful as I work on my soon to be published mystery book. 




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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review

What Ever Happened to Critical Thinking in Education?

As we look around our American universities and the streets of many cities, we see that many people no longer care about critical thinking or examining any opposing opinions. In fact, you don't have to look any farther than social media to see that.  Yet schools used to teach logic and critical thinking. As recently as a few years ago, when I was still selling books online, my best seller was a small flip chart: Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking. Recently, its publisher, Edupress, sold its educational supply business to another supplier. Fortunately, it's still available for home, school, and business use.

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review
Top Selling Critical Thinking Aid for Students, Educators, Writers, and Speakers
Collage of my scans edited on PicMonkey

When I Was Still Selling Teaching Resources Directly, This Flew Off My Shelves and I Shipped It All Over the Country.

Several years ago when I got my Edupress dealer catalog, it had a new item in it -- a small chart called Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking. I decided to try a few of them and listed it in my catalog. 

The results amazed me. It quickly became a best seller. Large school districts were ordering it in volume so they could give one to every teacher in the district. I discovered that education professors were giving workshops and recommending that everyone in the workshops buy this little chart. 


Why is this inexpensive little chart so valuable to educators?


This handy chart, which is easily held in one hand, started a stampede of educators to get it because it took the work of Benjamin Bloom and made it easy to understand and refer to. Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking was the work of Linda G. Barton, who based it on the original Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

This little spiral bound chart can be held in the hand while teaching a class or leading a discussion. It doesn’t take up much room on a teacher’s desk when he or she is planning a lesson or writing a test. As you can see in the photo to the left, it has a separate page for each level of thinking in the cognitive domain. If a teacher wants to make sure her test or discussion questions and lesson plans cover each level, all she has to do is flip from page to page.







This Mug Will Remind You or Someone Else to Think Critically 


Do you know someone who needs it? 



As you can see in the picture below, each page is easy to flip open. On the other side of the page you open is a definition of the level of knowledge that page covers — in this case, Comprehension. Under the definition is a list of keywords — verbs– that tell how one would demonstrate mastery of this level of knowledge: eg. classify, explain, outline, summarize, etc. Under the spiral are open-ended questions that students would need comprehension to be able to answer.  


This little chart is so useful it finds its way into the hands of workshop leaders, Bible discussion leaders, and even writers. Why writers? It helps them organize writing, and its questions can also act as writing prompts when writer's block attacks. The questions can encourage you to take your topic in a new direction. 


A New Flip Chart Appears

Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking was so popular that more flip charts were introduced. People loved the original Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking but had also been requesting an updated version. Before long, it was followed by Quick Flip Questions for the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. While it was still new, I sold more of these than of the original flip chart. But soon others discovered what I already knew -- this dirty little secret.

There is nothing new in this updated version. The words for the headings have been changed, but "Creating" has the same material as "Synthesis" had in the original version, and everything else that appears different is just in a different order. The levels of the cognitive domain of learning have been divided by the authors into these levels: Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating.

Either of these handy resources helps one improve thinking skills at any age with the flip of a page. Either is an indispensable tool that helps teachers write lesson plans, master Bloom's Taxonomy, and develop higher levels of thinking. It will help students develop analytic skills. They will learn to ask their teachers the right questions and to see through some of the nonsense they will find in their social media feeds.


How to Use the Flip Charts at Home


Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review
You Can Even Use the Flip Charts at Home
Photo © B. Radisavljevic


There are many ways to use the flip charts in families. They can even help improve child/parent communication. There are both threatening and non-threatening ways to ask questions. If it's your words which put children in a defensive stance (not your tone of voice), this resource can help you frame your questions in a way that may not raise the same barriers to communication. (I would not hold the book in your hand for these encounters. Learn the most useful questions and keep them in your head.)

Homeschoolers will also find these charts valuable. I still like the original version best. Home educators should get a copy for each child of middle school age and older. When the parent assigns reading she can also have the children answer one or two Level IV-VI questions orally or in writing afterward. After the family watches a video, TV commercial, or show together, maybe one of these Level IV and VI Questions would be appropriate to discuss together at the end:


  1. How would you prove...? disprove? 
  2. What choice would you have made?
  3. How is _____ related to...?
  4. What motive is there?
Parents need to help children get into the habit of analyzing what the media puts in front of them instead of just accepting it at face value. 



Why Not Get one of these Handy Critical Thinking Tools Now?




Quick Flip Questions for Critical Thinking Charts: A Review


***



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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Teach Your Child to Spell: A Review of The Natural Speller



What Do You Need to Teach Spelling?


If you are homeschooling your children, you don't need new graded workbooks every year. You need sensible teaching materials that help students at any level learn exactly what they need to know at their own pace.



For some of us, spelling came easily because we read a lot while growing up and were used to seeing words spelled properly all the time. We just knew, when proofreading, if a word looked wrong. This also worked for us on standardized multiple choice tests where we had to pick out the one word that was misspelled. If you are one of those people and are now faced with teaching a subject you almost absorbed yourself by osmosis, the book reviewed below is bound to help you plan your lessons.




If spelling was a tough subject for you, maybe you don't feel confident enough to teach your children. You may need a reference book that will bring you up to speed by helping you learn words that are especially hard for you -- the ones that never stuck after years of weekly spelling tests that simply confirmed you did not know them. One book that will help in each case above is Kathryn Stout's, The Natural Speller

Teach Your Child to Spell: A Review of The Natural Speller

About Kathryn Stout


I  first met Kathryn when we were both on the homeschool convention conference circuit. We were vendors, and during the dead times when the exhibit hall was almost empty, I walked around to try to discover new books to add to my inventory. I was impressed with Kathryn and the books she had written since they were perfect for those using a unit study approach, an approach I used when homeschooling my own children. She understood what in each subject was really important so that people could design a homeschool curriculum that did not leave out anything essential as they combined subjects in a unit study.  

Kathryn had taught in public schools for eight years before retiring to teach her own children. She already knew how many books were out there to help teachers, but she wanted to compile all that information into single subject resource to help other homeschooling parents get to the heart of their subjects. The Natural Speller is the go-to book for spelling. While many textbooks have some and gone, The Natural Speller is still popular after over twenty years. That's because it has everything people need to know about learning to spell in one handy book.

What's In The Natural Speller?


This is a comprehensive tool for the spelling teacher to use for any grade level. It has word lists for all grades through eighth, and they are arranged phonetically. It teaches the teacher how to teach spelling, and suggests activities to help students practice the words, use the words to help develop dictionary and grammar skills and build vocabulary. Writing activities to go with the spelling lists are included. After all, writing is where one uses spelling.

The Natural Speller also has a section devoted to special word lists: abbreviations, calendar and number words, colors, measurements, contractions, homophones, homographs, irregular verbs, foreign words, and Latin and Greek roots. Another section contains spelling rules. Lastly, there are hints on punctuation and capitalization; models for writing letters; and activities for using prefixes and suffixes. Just about anything related to spelling is in this book.

Another great feature of this book is that it assists the teacher in designing a completely individualized spelling program for each student without buying another book. Whether your child has learning disabilities and needs to go at a slower pace or whether your child is far above average in spelling, and only needs a reference when proofreading,  get the Natural Speller. It will be all you need. Older students will probably only need it for reference unless they haven't mastered the spelling words designated to be learned by grade nine.


Don't let your children grow up to be like this person below. If you're already this person, the book will help you, too.

For more reviews of books to help homeschool families and others who want to enrich their children's education, see Books to Remember: A World of Reading Choices.



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