Posted in Craft, Short stories, writers, Writing and Poetry, YA

Teen Topics To the Tune of Characters 5/31/2021 Unconditional Love by Traci Kenworth


Teen Topics: To the Tune of Characters 5/31/2021

Traci Kenworth

Unconditional Love

Jori glanced around the bedroom painted teal with flower bordering. She swallowed hard. How did she luck into this? A queen bed shoved alongside one wall with gold sheet sets matching the white and gold bedroom set.

“Do you-like it?” the woman said, a hand to her husband’s arm.

No, not woman. Her new mom and dad for that matter.

She’d never had either. Her twelve-year-old self attempted a half-smile. Her voice rose scratchy as she spoke. “Sure.”

Behind them, the lovely interior of one of the wealthiest residents in Backwater, Tennessee caused her to step back. What if she broke something? Would they toss her out? Send her back to the orphanage? Or another foster family? Her hand curled around the suitcase they’d brought for her to put her things in. Her things. One pair of pants. Two shirts. A pair of shorts.

The woman-mom waved her inside the room. “Make yourself welcome.”

“Check out everything,” her dad said.

Taking a deep breathe, she inched into the setting. This couldn’t be real. She didn’t deserve this luxury. As if to hit that message home, two shadows appeared behind the parents. One boy. One girl. The boy smiled. The girl frowned. What a joy it must be for them to get a new sister, almost grown.

Her mother opened the closet. “We got your sizes from the- We hope you like them.”

Inside, every color of dress shimmered.

“The dressers are filled too. If you need anything else. Let us know.”

Her dad nodded. “You’ll be given an allowance to manage. We expect some chores. Same as any family.”

And if she didn’t do it to their satisfaction?

Her mother patted her arm. “Don’t worry. We won’t throw everything at you all at once.” She glanced at the rest of her family. “Let’s give her some space. To sort through things.”

The girl lingered behind the others. She flashed her teeth at Jori. Go ahead. Just relax. She’d be there to set her straight, that look said.

Jori cringed. Well, she couldn’t expect it all to be pudding could she?

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Three Senryu and a Short Story Traci Kenworth

Image credit: Snapwire from Pexels

a piece of fabric
lies cluttered beside rail tracks
its owner misplaced

did she run along 
the train’s rails, heart in her throat,
or did her dress tear

did she see the beast
leave the shadows of the trees
no bones or blood tracked

The Girl Running Beside the Train Tracks

Traci Kenworth

Millie lost her shoe in the flight from whatever lunged after her. She’d been about to tie her laces at the time. Bent down, she’d heard a noise. Low, keening. Like a wounded animal. She’d thought perhaps a dog—

And gone to look. Eyes hooded like a snake; the beast had crept from the woods. She’d shouted but no one came. Perhaps the train drowned out all sound from around her. Gusting down the tracks, the people inside paid her no mind as they went about their travels. Never mind, that she’d been a passenger. She’d gotten down to investigate some flowers and that was that.

She raced down the path beside the rails, the beast coming near enough to snatch a piece of her purple dress. It spun her around as it did so. She stumbled and braced herself on a tree trunk. Please. Whatever god was out there—

She wanted to live. To grow up. To do so many things.

Why she hadn’t even kissed a frog and turned it into a prince yet.

Okay, maybe that was a stretch. But what about the pony she wanted? Surely, she should have that. Or at least, a kitten.

Maybe both.

She sucked in air. Must run. She bolted toward the blue sky ahead. Someone, help.

The beast panted behind her, its claws snarling in her hair. It swung her around. She batted at it, pushing those great snapping jaws to the side. Her gaze widened at the trickle of blood on its paw. She examined it further, the beast stifling its rage. At once, she saw the problem.

The thorn removed; the beast bowed to her. “My thanks.” He gestured to a saddled and bridled pony. “Yours.”

“I’ll treasure it always.”

The End.

Bestselling in the Little Market, a non-profit for Women. Coconut-Soy Wax Blend Candle. Medium Woven Star Bowl. A Reusable Gift Bag. A Beach Towel. A Dainty Triangle Necklace-Rose gold. A reusable wine tote. Dainty Blue Opal Necklace-rose gold.

Posted in #tanka #haiku #poetry, #tanka#haigu#senryu#haiku#haibun#cinquain#etheree#nonet#shadorma, blogs, Colleen's Weekly Poetry Challenge, Craft, MG & YA, Reading, senryu, Short stories, writers, Writing and Poetry, YA

Three Senryu and a Short Story Traci Kenworth

Colleen’s Weekly Tanka Poetry Challenge using the words Circled and Squared, synonyms only.

Image by Albina Mukhtarova from Pixabay

The sketch encompassed
her day of who he was, this
balance boy and man

he seemed all
shadows and light both
brash and bold

by life ink
and bone

The Rival

Traci Kenworth

All day she sat, sketching him first then adding ink. He leapt off the page, part boy, part man, all shadows and light. Who was this mystery man? Had she met him somewhere before? Glimpsed him in a dream? She tapped her finger slightly one the edge of the canvas. So brash, so bold. His image balanced perfectly there.

A knock came at her door.


“Yes, Mother?”

“Beau is here to see you.”

She straightened her dress and hair. Oh, no. She nearly upset her chair when she launched to her feet, determined he not find her like this. What would he think?

He strolled into the room, hat in hand. Her mother behind.

“Judy, darling,” he said, reaching for her hands and kissing the palms. He eyed her painting. “Is this then my rival?”

Her mother tittered.

“You have no rival, Beau. He’s merely a dream.”

He studied her work. “Well, I hope he won’t steal you away to often. I don’t intend to share.”

She smiled at him.

“I merely stopped by to tell you our reservations are set for this Friday. We’ll share a booth at the opera with my parents and yours.”

Her mother beamed.

Judy squeezed his hand. “I’ll look forward to it.”

Beau and his mother left her to her thoughts. She turned back to the painting to find it empty. What? She stepped over her chair. Where had the image gone?

Try as she might, she never got the subject back. It was almost as if the mystery man didn’t want to compete either.

Motherhood descended on her not long after she and Beau married. She never took up her art again. Perhaps he had represented what she knew she would lose with her vows.

Then again, look at those towheads out the window. What a gain.

The End.

Bestselling in Back to School Essentials. Febreeze Fabric Refresher. Welly Bravery Bandages. Vitamin C 1000mg-gluten free. Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent, Lavender Scent. Tide Pods and Bounce Dryer Sheets, Better Together Bundle.

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Colleen’s Weekly Tanka Poetry Challenge 6/24/2020: The Soldier and Story Traci Kenworth

“…Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time…”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Soldier

a man
broken, battered
wins valor on the field
he gives all, defends all gladly

Adam struggled to raise his head. He didn’t know how long it’d been since the bomb dropped. The other men beside him lay or toppled in the dugout. Ringing clamored for his attention. He held his head. Calm. Stay calm. It isn’t over yet.

Would they come for him soon? Climbing over rubble and barbwire dipped in blood? He swallowed. Images drilled into him. Mary and the baby. His brother. His best friend. They’d both been taken years before in this long war. Was he to join them?

He bowed his head. Keep me strong.

Footsteps sounded above.

He drew back into the dugout. Was he to be a prisoner then? Did they even keep prisoners anymore? Maybe a firing squad would greet him.

When the silence drew on longer, he peered out. Men in robes scouted the area. Monks here? He rubbed his eyes. Were those—wings?

He lay back. Blood slathered his hand. Whose? Stars clouded his vision. He sank into blackness. Cold air woke him. Where had the angels gone? No one laid strewn about the dugout. He crawled to the top for a glimpse. Bombs and smoke had cleared. He climbed further out.

Barbwire snagged his pants. Pain battered him. Sweat glistened on his skin as he pulled at the wire to remove it. It had gone deep but was no worse than any of the other thousand wounds that scarred him. He crept through the field.

A light shone on him.

He covered his head and lay still.

The light departed.

His breath returned.

A light breeze cooled his skin. He sighed. What he’d give for air-conditioning and a home-cooked meal again. He continued on. The light swept the area again. Just as before, he froze.

What did it want with him?

Why wouldn’t it let him be?

Something touched his hand and he belted out a scream.

Hoarse, ragged, he thirsted.

Still no one appeared.

Was he the lone survivor of the war? Had he been caught in some Twilight Zone episode? Why didn’t his enemies recover him? He could do nothing to save himself.

He came across a pack. Dog tags in hand, he read what was written: To the lone soldier. May blessings find you.

With a shake of his head, he rummaged through the pack. Maybe there was something usual to be found. His hand curled around a bottle of water and he quenched his thirst. Deeper in, he found some jerky and a can of Spam. He hungrily devoured each. What else was in here?

He withdrew some Neosporin, gauze, and tape and dressed his wounds. Another search recovered a bottle of Ibuprofen. He smiled. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

“Can I help you, son?”

He jerked his head up.

Maybe it was the ringing. He’d just imagined it. He considered the pack and its contents again. Might come in useful. He strapped it to his back and pulled himself onward.

“You have no need to flee.”

He jerked left and right and beheld no one. What was happening? Was he losing his mind? Imagining it all? Perhaps he was asleep in his tent right now. The boys would sure have a laugh at his expense when he told them. He waited to wake but no sirens blasted the camp.

A shadow fell over him. As he looked up, he wheezed. Winged beings surrounded him. One gently squeezed his hand.

“You are safe with us.”

“W-who are you?”

They smiled. “Don’t you know?”

A memory from childhood hit him. Drawings he and his brother had done in Sunday school. “Are you-angels?”

They nodded.

The tallest gestured for the others to raise him up. “Time to go home, soldier. Your family awaits.”

A vision of his mother, father, and brother around the table at dinner delivered him to his chair.

“Pass the mashed potatoes,” his brother said.

His mother smiled at him and placed several pieces of turkey on his plate. Corn on the cob and honey-glazed carrots already resided there. He eyed the peach cobbler in the center of the table and grinned. His favorites. Now what had he been worried about? Ah. It didn’t matter. All days from here forward would be Thanksgiving Days.

Bestsellers in books. The Room Where it Happened. White Fragility. Too Much and Never Enough. How to be an Anti-Racist. The Vanishing Half: a Novel. Where the Crawdads Sing. Stamped from the Beginning. So You Want to Talk About Race. Untamed. The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes.

Posted in blogs, Craft, Short stories

Writerly Things 5/17/2020: Writing Short Stories Traci Kenworth

Image by Carola68 from Pixabay

Writerly Things 5/18/2020: Writing Short Stories

Traci Kenworth

Do you write short stories as well as longer works? It could be good exercises to do the former along with your other writing. Writing muscles develop the longer we practice something. With books, it might take years to finish the product. Short stories can be done much quicker, sometimes a week or two.

Makes You More Productive.

Ray Bradbury always encouraged a writer to spend some time writing short stories. It gives you a good feeling when you finish something and the more times you do it, the more you might gain confidence in yourself. You should submit to markets with them as well to get yourself used to submitting. You might get rejected but you might not. A lot of well-known writers champion the short story as beginning ground for anyone. Even if you’ve been writing a long time. A slot in an anthology might get your name known to readers and encourage others to publish you.

Gets You Dealing with Story Mechanics.

You don’t have as much room to deal with a story in a short one. Therefore, every word counts. This will get you being more thoughtful and economical. You will choose the better words. Also, there’s not as much room for character development so you’re forced to make shorter arcs in the story. It will open your eyes to the possibilities. Your plot will tighten considerably as you grow more and more familiar with the process.

You Can Always Use Them for a Promotion Piece if Necessary.

Offer them to your readers as they come to visit your site. Show them that you are what you say. Sooner or later, you have to produce work if you call yourself a writer. Writing short stories offers an avenue to do so. It encourages others to read our work. We can always write stories that take place independent of our book. That focus on a specific event, what might have drawn the power to life in our series. Offering up such a story might encourage others to buy your book if they like it.

Your Tools Will Grow.

Each form you learn, be it short story, poem, novella, or novel teaches you different methods of craft. Doing your best to learn each will serve your future. You will be able to go back and forth between them, always having a path to follow. Obviously, you’ll be able to move short stories and poems in volume more than the others. If you want to be the best writer YOU can be, practice all these. Always be learning, studying, mastering your craft. Never believe you’ve reached a plateau and have nothing else to accomplish. When you think like that, you stop growing as a writer, and the end will come.

Genres Abound in any Form.

Experiment with different genres. Try your hand with as many as you like. This too will encourage growth in your writing. Short stories will get your feet wet in areas that you might not be as familiar with. You will discover if you like that genre or not before you commit to a book. See how things work out in sci-fi, romance, mystery, and more. No one has to see the story if you don’t want them to. Test a small few on the work before you go deeper. It’s a great way to cover ground.

Yes, short stories can benefit us in many ways. Faster, more immediate. They help us to test theories as well as characters. If they work out, you’ll know to go deeper in longer stories.

Spring is here! Are you out doing yard work? Could you use some new tools? Weed whacker? Clippers? Lawn mower? Saw? Utility wagon? Deck Furniture? Grill?

Posted in #tanka #haiku #poetry, blogs, Craft, Links, Links, MG & YA, Reading, Short stories, writers, Writing and Poetry

Five Links 4/24/2020 Traci Kenworth

Image by Annalise Batista from Pixabay

Five Links 4/27/2020

Traci Kenworth


1. “This week I’d like to channel some of my COVID-19 quarantine frustrations by quickly and angrily debunking a bit of literati bullshit that has always pissed me off. One of many ways in which people without imagination try to belittle people with imagination is by looking down their noses at genre fiction for a variety of reasons, the most absurd of which is a disdain for plot.

Plot, these nitwits would have us believe, is neither necessary nor desirable for a novel, and is instead a sign of weakness in the author and ignorance in the reader, which honestly makes me want to go on some kind of violent rampage. I’ve heard this over and over again but was triggered this past week when I read “How Pandemics Seep into Literature” by Elizabeth Outka at (of course) the Paris Review:”

2. “Having a hard time sitting in that chair and watching that cursor blinking at you? You are not alone. I’m afraid. Every. Single. Day.

We make excuses, like:

  • No time – I have a busy life!
  • Classes – I don’t know enough
  • Research – I don’t know enough
  • Too many plot ideas
  • Not enough plot ideas
  • No writer space – people keep bugging me
  • I will. When…
  • Never finish” I think this is the hardest thing to do sometimes. Fear gets you in the gut. Changes you. Backs you in the corner. And you have to learn to stand and slay it like a dragon.

3. “In a world gone crazy, or at least to keep yourself from going stir crazy, why not a virtual wild west saloon run by fictional characters? Something different, served fresh every Monday.”



Research & Fun Bits:

1. “Hi gang, Craig with you today. This is post number seven in the character archetypes series. In the Hero’s Journey, there are some common characters that are likely to show up in all stories. This doesn’t mean each archetype shows up in every story, and aside from the hero, the rest are kind of optional. Almost every story will have an assortment of them.

This series is to introduce you to them. Once you’re aware of them, you can decide if they can benefit the story you’re writing.

The Guardian has a few different names, the Threshold Guardian, the Gatekeeper, even The Wall. They all mean the same thing. This is another one that can be a character, but can also be a situation or a physical obstacle. Your hero cannot complete the task without conquering the Guardian.” A new character idea for me. I can see where they’d be useful. Going to thing more on this.

2. “Welcome to Fairy Tarot Friday. Each Friday I’ll share a card from the Fairy Tarot deck by Doreen Virtue & Radleigh Valentine, featuring an uplifting message from the fey. I’ll also include a bit of syllabic poetry inspired by the card reading.

The Major Arcana contains 22 cards that describe major events and turning points in our lives (marriage, pregnancy, relationship and career changes, and overcoming personal challenges). The Major Arcana cards also represent the different phases from childhood to old age.

Doreen Virtue numbered the Minor Arcana cards to comprise four suits representing different aspects of human life. They number the Minor Arcana cards 1 (Ace) through 10, plus the four court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, and King). The Minor Arcana reflects the day-to-day aspects of our lives and the people in them. Court cards represent either a situation or a person during a reading.

3. “Let me ask you a question. Answer truthfully as the answer is only to yourself. How many times a day are you the center of good attention? My guess, based on some solid data, is that even if you have a focused partner, a loving child, or an exceptional parent, your answer is going to be fairly low. If you don’t have one of those, the number approaches nil. Along comes a vendor who is eager to engage with you as his only focus. He isn’t pushing his product on you. He is genuinely interesting in finding out how you are different! Isn’t that appealing? This is the essence of my F2F marketing strategies.

The essence of flirting is the wholehearted, one-to-one focus that one person can give to another if they are sincere. No, it’s not about trying to get a date. No, it’s not plastered on as a veneer until you can have what you want. No, it’s not about hawking your books at them.

I know you have a preconceived notion of what flirting is. I’ll tell you that you are almost certainly wrong. I have many more credits than those required to have a minor in psychology (but my school didn’t offer one). I’ve done some of my own studies in this area. I find that the meanings given by the professional wordsmiths are wrong. What I’ve learned as a definition: Flirting – To give attention to one or more persons and / or their interests in a wholehearted way.”

4. “Cats language is largely made of body language, physical contact, sounds, and scents, like most animals. Without words, cats still manage to show affection, tell you what they want, and warn off whoever annoys them.

So, how do cats communicate with humans? How do cats communicate with other cats? Mostly, the way cats communicate with each other and the way cats communicate with humans is similar.”


Some Things More Serious:

1. “If you want to write good fiction (but you’re not an absolute beginner), you can sign up fro this free online course, starting tomorrow: just follow the link in the post.”




5. “It’s been a while since my last post and there was a crazy and unexpected turn of events. When I wrote my last post, I would never have imagined I would be giving birth during a pandemic. I was so happy and excited to meet my little guy, but that quickly turned to fear. I was scared to give birth and bring a baby into the world during a time like this.

Luckily, I started couponing again weeks before my due date to stock up on baby supplies and household items. During the last few weeks of my pregnancy, it was nearly impossible to find diapers, wipes and as you all know, toilet paper! I’m so thankful I stocked up on these items before this happened.

My baby shower did not turn out as planned, since we were all in fear of being around people. My boyfriend still planned the most beautiful baby shower I’ve ever had. We didn’t have as many people as planned, but I was still thankful for the people who were able to make it. I was able to have an amazing day, during an otherwise scary time.”

Teaser Fiction & Poetry:






Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:

1. “Antonia may not be the most powerful wizard the world has ever seen, but she’s worked hard to win her place as apprentice to renowned sorcerer Master Betrys. Unfortunately, even her best dancing turnip charm might not be enough when Moppe the scullery maid turns out to be a magical prodigy. Now that Betrys has taken Moppe on as a second apprentice, Antonia’s path to wizarding just got a bit more complicated.”

2. young witches, once inseparable, are set at odds by secrets and wildly dangerous magic.

In the waning days of World War II, with Allied victory all but certain, desperate Nazi diabolists search for a demonic superweapon to turn the tide. A secluded castle somewhere in the south of Germany serves as a laboratory for experiments conducted upon human prisoners, experiments as vile as they are deadly.

Across the English Channel, tucked into the sleepy Cumbrian countryside, lies the Library, the repository of occult knowledge for the Société des Éclairées, an international organization of diabolists. There, best friends Jane Blackwood and Miriam Cantor, tutored by the Société’s Librarian—and Jane’s mother—Nancy, prepare to undergo the Test that will determine their future as diabolists.

When Miriam learns her missing parents are suspected of betraying the Société to the Nazis, she embarks on a quest to clear their names, a quest involving dangerous diabolic practices that will demand more of her than she can imagine. Meanwhile Jane, struggling with dark obsessions of her own, embraces a forbidden use of the Art that could put everyone she loves in danger.

As their friendship buckles under the stress of too many secrets, Jane and Miriam will come face to face with unexpected truths that change everything they know about the war, the world, and most of all themselves. After all, some choices cannot be unmade–and a sacrifice made with the most noble intention might end up creating a monster.

3. “From author Kelly Quindlen comes a poignant and deeply relatable story about friendship, self-acceptance, and what it means to be a Real Teenager. Late to the Party is an ode to late bloomers and wallflowers everywhere.

Seventeen is nothing like Codi Teller imagined.

She’s never crashed a party, never stayed out too late. She’s never even been kissed. And it’s not just because she’s gay. It’s because she and her two best friends, Maritza and JaKory, spend more time in her basement watching Netflix than engaging with the outside world.

So when Maritza and JaKory suggest crashing a party, Codi is highly skeptical. Those parties aren’t for kids like them. They’re for cool kids. Straight kids.

But then Codi stumbles upon one of those cool kids, Ricky, kissing another boy in the dark, and an unexpected friendship is formed. In return for never talking about that kiss, Ricky takes Codi under his wing and draws her into a wild summer filled with late nights, new experiences, and one really cute girl named”

4. “Today I’m sharing my friend, Ryan Dalton’s successful MG query. I love how Ryan has done a really effective job of detailing the story while still giving it a jab of emotion. After reading, it’s easy to see why he connected with his agent. This book would later go on to get a deal with Lerner Books.

Archie Reese’s fondest memories are of sharing stories with his grandfather. So, when Ulysses Reese is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, thirteen-year-old Archie desperately turns to stories to save him. Using his grandfather’s old journal entries, he creates shared fantasies with epic quests for them to tackle together. Dragons, pirates, raging infernos, and more–all to remind Ulysses Reese of the hero he was and bring back his fading memories.

But the biggest monsters lurk in the real world, and so far, they’re winning. Archie tries to help Mom cope with what’s happening, but just makes things worse. School wants to know about his plans for the future, but he doesn’t have a clue what he wants to be. Then there’s the question he can’t keep ignoring–are these fantasies the key to saving Grandpa, or just a distraction?

If Archie’s going to become the hero of his own story, he must embark on the most epic quest of all–finding the courage to face the real world. REMEMBER ME, ARCHIE has been described as Big Fish meets Tuesdays with Morrie. It’s a middle grade contemporary novel with a dash of fantasy, complete at 45K words.”

3. “Today’s guest is Robin Kirk! She’s an award-winning poet and essayist, and her short fiction appears in Beyond the NightlightTomorrow: Apocalyptic Short StoriesWicked South: Secrets and Lies: Stories for Young Adults, and more. The Bond, her science fiction debut novel, received the 2018 Foreword INDIES Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction and was a finalist in the 2019 Manly Wade Wellman Award for North Carolina Science Fiction and Fantasy. The second book in the Bond Trilogy, The Hive Queen, is coming out on August 3!”

Here we are in the fourth week of the shutdown. Need some reading suggestions? Try this, this, this, and this.

Movie? This, this, and this.

TV? This and this.

Snacks? This and this.

Games to occupy your thoughts? Family, here. Adult, here.

Video games? Try this and this.

Water? Tea? Coffee?

Haircutting tools?

Posted in blogs, Craft, Links, Links, MG & YA, Reading, Short stories, writers, Writing and Poetry, YA

Five Links 4/10/2020 Traci Kenworth

Image by Oldiefan from Pixabay

Five Links 4/11/2020

Traci Kenworth


1. “You might not know it, but you generally do just about everything better when you’re relaxed.

When I took voice lessons in college, my instructors spent more time telling me to relax (physically) than just about anything else. I clench and tighten my jaw a lot because of my anxiety, and you can’t actually sing properly without loosening your jaw. I quite literally had to start going to therapy to improve my mental health so that I could physically relax enough to perform correctly. (It helped with other things, obviously, but … you know.)

Years later when I started trying to teach myself the violin, I couldn’t figure out why I was struggling so much to get the proper techniques down. It turns out I still tense up every single muscle in my body when I’m doing things. That makes playing an instrument extremely difficult, too.” This might be hard to do at this time, but we need to remember who’s with us. Our family. Our faith. Our belief. Let that get you through.

2. “Welcome back to the rerun of my radio show, So You Want To Be A Writer. In today’s episode you’ll see one glaring hazard of the seasonal show – the new year issue that’s no longer at new year. But today’s a new week! And, more seriously, we’re all getting used to new normals, so perhaps the material in this show is timely after all.

We’re covering everything you need to harness your creative zeal, get your projects moving, set good habits, keep going when hurdles get in your way.

You might have noticed our inspirational music choices. Obviously you fast-forward through them if they’re not your bag, but I have to give a warning about one of today’s. It’s the Portsmouth Sinfonia. If you don’t know the Portsmouth Sinfonia, make sure you’re not operating heavy machinery. I first heard them while driving and I nearly crashed.

Asking the questions (or most of them) is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!”

3. “Story time: When I had been out of high school for less than a year, one of my friends had her first baby. I still remember some of the advice her mom gave her. Something along the lines of, “Everyone wants to put their baby on a schedule, but you know, the baby will let you know when it needs something. The baby will cry when it’s hungry, when it is wet, or when it is tired. It will let you know.”

Now, I’m still not a parent, and I’m sure life can be more complicated than that (and that people wished their baby’s needs were a little clearer), but something about that statement stayed in my nineteen-year-old brain. Maybe part of it was the relief it brought in knowing that any frustration that might come from trying to enforce a set schedule, would be avoided.

For the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how a book is like a baby.

You study and plan and prepare and pick names. You might even envision a whole path your “baby” will take. You might prewrite and outline and organize.”

4. “Minor characters are part of your cast of characters. They come “on stage” from time to time and serve specific purposes in the story. They don’t have huge, front and center roles, but they’re important to the overall plot.

The characters at NASA trying to get Mark Watney home from Mars in The Martian have bit parts, but without them, the story fails. Same with the crew of Watney’s ship, his pals who make the hard decision to turn around and go back for him, committing to many months’ delay in returning to Earth.

There are few moments with these minor characters, but if they were removed from the story, there would be no story to speak of. So, remember, they are only minor in the amount of stage time they have in the pages of your book. But they are not minor in value or purpose.

Incidental characters are in a different category. They can be removed from your story and it wouldn’t truly impact it. Their absence would not equate to novel failure. However, I will venture to say that sometimes it’s the incidental characters that add that special ingredient that makes a novel terrific and stand high above the mounds of other good novels.

It may perhaps be counterintuitive to say that incidental characters often have a big impacting role in a story, but I’d like you to pay close attention to this and consider how you might work incidental characters into your story.”

5. “Tick-tock. The clock rolls on—marking time for all of us who are in the day-by-day progression of processing our understanding of and reaction to the nearly global and mostly voluntary quarantine in response to the startling arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My own emotions have been all over the map—from a rational and pragmatic outlook one minute…

…to having all my germaphobic tendencies massively”

Research & Fun Bits:

1. “ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, recently published a post on dramatic techniques by Jules Horne, author of Dramatic Techniques for Creative Writers.

With a background in scriptwriting, Jules is perfect for explaining how the dramatic techniques used in theaters and movies can power up your writing and make your storytelling bolder, more engaging, and more compelling. After all, these techniques have been test-driven for centuries in front of unforgiving live audiences, and they work!

Here are five ways you can use them to transform your fiction writing.”

2. “It’s April, and for the ninth year in a row, this month is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing wonderful work in speculative fiction! Starting tomorrow, this blog will be featuring guest posts by women doing work in science fiction and fantasy, discussing everything from their experiences and inspirations to thoughts on writing and speculative fiction to the current pandemic. I’m incredibly excited about sharing their essays with you over the next few weeks!

Women in SF&F Month was created after some discussions that took place in the online science fiction/fantasy book community around March 2012 regarding review coverage of books by women and the lack of women blogging about books being suggested for Hugo Awards in fan categories. Seeing the responses to these—including the argument that women weren’t being reviewed and mentioned because there just weren’t that many women reading and writing SFF—got me thinking about spending a month highlighting women reading, reviewing, and writing speculative fiction to show that there certainly are a lot of us. At that time, April was the earliest this could happen, and I was astounded by the number of authors and reviewers who accepted my invitation to write a guest post, as well as their wonderful pieces.

Things have changed a lot since 2012 and the years that closely followed it, but especially given that everything has seemed under threat lately, I think it’s important that women’s voices continue to be heard and have run the series every April since. One thing that has not changed is that I continue to be astounded by all the wonderful essays that are part of this series, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has written a piece for it.

There’s also an ongoing recommendation list project that has been part of it since the second year. In 2013, Renay from Lady Business not only wrote about her personal experience with finding it difficult to find books by women when she was starting out as a young genre fan but also asked readers to submit up to 10 SFF books by women that they loved. Those individual recommendations were made into a list containing the number of times a work was submitted, and we’ve collected new book”

3. “here’s a lot of criticism involved in being a writer. It’s part of every stage of writing a book. Early on, you need feedback to help you with your personal vision. Later, you might get input from publishing professionals – editors, literary agents, publishers. Some of them might reject your work! (Rest assured, this happens to all of us.) Finally, after all those thrashings, you’ll get opinions from readers and critics. We need thick skins at times; receptive hearts at others. We need to learn who to trust, who’s not a good fit for our aims, who to laugh off with a shrug. And alongside all these we have our harshest critics – ourselves, our hopes.

That’s what we’re talking about today.

Asking the questions is independent bookseller Peter Snell. Answering them is me!”

4. “et’s face it: the current state of events has thrown all of us into a tailspin. Some of us are juggling lots of new responsibilities while others are struggling to figure out what to do with our time. As hard as it is for the former group to fathom, this situation has provided an actual opportunity for many people to finally sit down and write. Maybe you’ve been putting it off, unsure where to start, and now the temporal barriers are gone. If you’re in this boat, Rachael Cooper from Jericho Writers is sharing some novel-writing methods that might give you a push in the right direction.

Writing a novel is not just a case of putting pen to paper and letting your imagination run wild—at least not all the time. For most writers, their novels begin with some form of structure. Planning for each twist and turn can be hard at first, especially if you don’t quite know how it all hangs together, but with any of these techniques, you’ll be fully prepared to plot your novel and make the most of your writing time.”

5. “o what exactly is setting as it relates to historical fiction? I’ll attempt to answer that, but I know that my answer will be incomplete. In addition, many of the items listed below also fit into the category of world building – I’m having trouble separating the two! We’ll explore world building later.

A few years ago, I wrote Time Travel – The Work of Historical Fiction where I listed all sorts of details I needed to explore to develop a novel set in 1870s Paris. Since then, other authors have written guest posts that have helped expand the notion of setting and I’ve done more digging on the topic. In this post, I’ve organized the components of setting into broad categories to make it more useful.”

Some Things More Serious:

1. “Once again I return not with a single blog post (because I can barely concentrate enough to manage that feat), but a prismatic one — a single blog post broken up into fragmented, colored beams. Please to enjoy. Or don’t. Don’t enjoy things. No obligations.

A good portion of my day is now spent as a digital hunter-gatherer. I eyeball our supply and try to loosely plan meals and such and then I’m like, I DON’T THINK WE HAVE ENOUGH EGGS OH FUCK OH FUCK and then I realize Easter is coming and so I spend an hour doing some kind of Internet deep dive trying to source local eggs, and I make a bunch of phone calls and then, boom, I get two dozen eggs and the day is saved. Until the next crisis. Do I have enough toilet paper? I better go check again, oh shit, oh shit. Can I wipe my ass with tree bark or an errant squirrel? Should I have some kind of toilet-side shower pail, a tabo?

Last night, part of my huntering-gathering was about cocktail ingredients. I know. I know. That is probably not healthy? I promise I’m not drinking any more, I’m just not drinking any less — zing! Ahem. No, it’s just, we have a lot of base spirits. I’m well-stocked on gin and whiskey and such, but then, things to mix? Not so much. And yes, you can drink whiskey straight, and I do, but these days I am a fancy man who sometimes likes to add in various syrups and occult reagents to my drinky-dranks. Or tonic, at least. I think tonic makes gin medicine. Right?”

2. “Some people believe showing unselfish concern toward others’ welfare is something only humans are capable of, that it’s part of our social behavior. However, animals can be altruistic and compassionate, too, sometimes more so than humans.”

3. “The human condition has changed little at the level of the soul and is unlikely to do so for a long time to come. Over the course of various workshops, the Silent Eye has ventured into the furthest reaches of past and future with its themes, drawing upon both ancient cultures and science fiction for inspiration. We have woven tales around sacred sites and explored the symbolism of myth… places outside of time. Place and time are irrelevant, the questions we carry may have changed over the centuries, but only by our ability to formulate them in ever more complex ways. The essence of those questions echoes back through our distant legends and will reverberate through our future. Who are we? Why are we here? And is the meaning of ‘life, the universe and everything’ something more understandable than ‘42’?”



Teaser Fiction & Poetry:






Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:

1. Wonder of Wildflowers is by far the most personal project I’ve worked on. It’s about a young girl who is an immigrant in a country that’s closed itself off from the rest of the world in order to protect its most valuable resource, a magical liquid called Amber. The idea was inspired by my own experiences as a Polish immigrant, acclimating to life in what felt like a magical new land. When I first had the idea of writing a story inspired by my own experiences, I started off by trying to write it as realistic fiction, peppered with a bit of humor. But the genre and voice just weren’t working. Then it occurred to me that perhaps this land didn’t just feel magical to my protagonist—perhaps it really was magical. Once I knew that about the setting, the voice and plot fell into place pretty quickly.”

2. “Empire. Revolution. Magic.

Gerrit is the son of Bourshkanya’s Supreme-General. Despite his powerful storm-affinity and the State’s best training, he can’t control his magic. To escape the brutal consequences, he flees.

Celka is a travelling circus performer, hiding both her link to the underground and her storm-affinity from the prying eyes of the secret police. But Gerrit’s arrival threatens to expose everything: her magic, her family, and the people they protect.

The storms have returned, and everything will change.

3. “Today’s guest is K.S. Villoso, author of The Agartes Epilogues series and Blackwood MaraudersThe Wolf of Oren-Yaro, the first novel in her epic fantasy trilogy Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, was recently republished by Orbit Books with the next two books in the series following soon—The Ikessar Falcon in September and the new conclusion next year. I’m excited for the rest of this series since The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is exactly the type of book I love to read: a character-driven story with a vivid voice that captured my attention from the very first line and kept me riveted until the very end.”

4. “Marcia Meara, author of Swamp Ghosts and Finding Hunter, has set Book One of her Wake-Robin Ridge series amid the haunting beauty of the North Carolina mountains, where ghosts walk, ancient legends abound, and things still go bump in the night.

“A PHONE RINGING AT 2:00 A.M. never means anything good. Calls at 2:00 A.M. are bad news. Someone has died. Someone is hurt. Or someone needs help.”

On a bitter cold January night in 1965, death came calling at an isolated little cabin on Wake-Robin Ridge. Now, nearly 50 years later, librarian Sarah Gray has quit her job and moved into the same cabin, hoping the peace and quiet of her woodland retreat will allow her to concentrate on writing her first novel. Instead she finds herself distracted by her only neighbor, the enigmatic and reclusive MacKenzie Cole, who lives on top of the mountain with his Irish wolfhound as his sole companion.”

5. “Matt’s life changes forever when a family of druids moves into the dilapidated Victorian mansion next door. The story of an unlikely friendship, the clash of two completely different cultures, secret magic, and a search for the lost Hawthorne treasure.

Fifteen-year-old Matt Mitchell was having the worst summer imaginable. Matt’s misery started when a drunk driver killed his mother. Then his father moved him and his twin sister to the small town of Hawthorne in rural Indiana, as far as his grieving father could take from the ocean that Matt’s mother had loved. At the new high school, three bullies are determined to make Matt miserable. And to top it off, Matt learns that the recluse who lives in the ‘haunted house” next door is none other than Old Lady Hawthorne, the town’s infamous witch and murderer. Matt’s terrible summer is turning into an awful autumn when something quite unexpected happens. Old Lady Hawthorne’s niece and her three children arrive, and Matt meets Gerallt.”

How are you weathering things? Do you find yourself in need of cleaning products? Here are one, two, three links to help out.

How about pet food? Dogs: one, two. Cats: one, two.

Hygiene: One, two, three.

Snacks (yes, they can bring comfort!): one, two.

Tea: one, two.

Coffee: one, two.

Movie: one.

Book: one, two.

Office supplies: one.

Posted in blogs, Craft, Links, Links, MG & YA, Short stories

Five Links 4/3/2020 Traci Kenworth

Image by Pixamio from Pixabay

Five Links 4/4/2020

Traci Kenworth


1. “Goodness knows, we need all the fun we can get right now. So in lieu of my usual craft column, I’m declaring today an official TKZ Fun Zone (TKZFZ). Let’s play a game.

The name of the game is Less Interesting Books. You take a well known title and change a word or two to come up with a not-so-compelling alternative. For example:” My entry: The Hangar Games.

2. “But I’ll tell you what else–as discomforting as things are right now, I am proud of us too. Most are working hard to social distance, navigate upended schedules and work environments, help kids at home adjust, and find ways to maintain a positive mindset. And that, friends, is amazing. 🙂

In uncertain times, we struggle because we don’t feel in control. And this is precisely why it’s so important for us to focus our energy away from worrying and toward something within our power to do.

It’s wonderful to see many of you taking this unexpected time at home to work on your novels, or research writing craft, marketing, or other aspects of career management. This is a great way to redirect toward something meaningful, which contributes to a healthier mindset.”




Research & Some Fun Bits:






Some Things More Serious:






Teaser Fiction & Poetry:






Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, & Author Interviews:

1. “We’re excited to feature award winning author of Catepillar Summer, Gillian McDunn and her latest novel, The Queen Bee and Me in today’s Mo-books! In this book, Gillian weaves together a nuanced story about friendship. She combines interesting facts about bees along with authentic voice and heart-warming characters.

Middle Grade Mojo: What was your inspiration for the story? Are their many similarities to your own life”

2. “Riley Green is certain her lie detector pen will improve her status in a school full of kids from the most powerful families of Washington, D.C. But her plan collapses when her invention idea is stolen, her favorite teacher goes missing, and mysterious threats appear around the capitol. Before vanishing, Riley’s teacher entrusts her with her most prized possession, the lost notebook of Nikola Tesla, legendary inventor and scientist. Now Riley and her friends must protect the notebook from thieves who want to steal the notebook for the dangerous invention detailed inside. When Riley discovers another secret, she must decode a mysterious message before it’s too late. Her teacher’s life depends on it. – Capstone Edition Aug/2020

A fun mystery involving the lost notebook of Nikola Tesla? Yes, PLEASE!

I’ve had the pleasure of reading this and it is SOO good. I’ll be posting a full review as the release gets closer, but you should go ahead and pre-order it here.

Keep up with the launch happenings, etc. by following Debbie D’Aurelio on Twitter at @dadaurelio”




Some things that may brighten your day during this time of shelter at home. Movies: 1, 2, 3.

Books: 1, 2, 3.

Teas: 1, 2.

Coffee: 1, 2.

Music: 1, 2.

TV shows: 1.

Candy: 1.

Popcorn: 1.

Posted in #tanka #haiku #poetry, #tanka#haigu#senryu#haiku#haibun#cinquain#etheree#nonet#shadorma, blogs, Colleen's Weekly Poetry Challenge, Craft, Short stories, Writing and Poetry

Colleen’s Weekly 2020 Poetry Challenge 4/1/2020 A Didactic Cinquain and a Story.

Image by Dimitri Houtteman from Pixabay


Gray, white

Playful, batting, curious

Pawing at everything it encounters


The tiny kitten inspected the flower in its crack on the sidewalk. It smelled—different. Not like the scents he was used to growing up on the streets. He pawed at the stem. It sprang back and forth. His whiskers twitched. This was odd. Playful. Not like his other toys out here. This one seemed tamed, polished and yet, it was wild like him.

He sniffed the dew of the morning. Another day out in the sun. At least, it didn’t rain like yesterday. Yesterday, had drenched even his hiding spot under the alley’s porch.

The brisk sound of heels on the sidewalk sent him scurrying under the porch. He hid until only a faint sound remained of the well-dressed woman. Out in the open again, he returned to the flower. Why did it hang about so? Why didn’t it choose to hide like the kitten? What kept it rooted to its spot?

A siren blared in the distance.

He backed against the brick wall of the building behind him.

This had to be a trick. Something to get him to come out and play. Just as the children had tried to do a few days ago. He stared at the flower suspiciously. Why didn’t it fight back? Protect itself?

Its smile was forlorn.

It looked in need of a pick-me-up.

He approached it again. Hello?

The breeze brushed the petals. It leaned toward the kitten and gently stroked his pink nose.

He scooted back further. It—liked—him.

How did he feel about it?

It was a curious thing, for sure. All gentle and no prickers.

It was built for a meadow not this sidewalk. But here, it’d leaped to life. Maybe that’s why it wanted to make friends.

He walked around it. Sat down. The wind tickled it again. He reached out and tested it with his claws. It didn’t jump back or hiss or spit. It stayed up, bright and sunny. A welcome.

A homeless woman traveled down the alleyway; her cart pushed out before her with her finds for the day.

He scampered under the porch before she could find him.

Before long, the stars came out. He drifted off to sleep. Movement woke him. A rodent rummaged in the trash on the other side of the porch. Quick as a snake, he hurtled toward it, caught it in his claws, and snapped its neck. Dinner for the night. Pleased with himself, he scurried under the porch and ate.

The sun came up and the flower bid him welcome.

He touched it with his paw. Perhaps it would bring him good luck.

He darted down the alley, hunger coursing through him in zigzags of lightning. One small meal in a week didn’t curb the longing. He searched and found—nothing. He returned to the flower and discovered a small can of something wet and delicious next to his porch home. With a quick taste, he found it scrumptious.

Morning saw a new can placed outside the porch. He gulped it down. With a glance at the flower, he wondered who could be putting it there? The old woman with the cart? The kids?

Someone new?

He heard a click of heels and hunched down inside his hideout.

The woman bent down and placed another can. She stepped away.

He crawled out and tasted it.

She hadn’t gone far. “Hello, kitty,” she said.

He scurried inside. Peeked out.

She was still there.

His whiskers tested the air.

“It’s okay. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

And she did. And the next day after that. Pretty soon, she got to be as regular as the flower. One day, he let her pet him. Another, he allowed her to pick him up, scratch behind his ear. Still more days passed before he let her take him home. From her apartment, he could see the tiny flower, its friendship still abloom.

Need some pet food? This and this.

Treats? This and this.

Litter? Here.

Toys? This and this.

Dogs instead? Food here and here.

Treats? This and this.

Poop scoop bags?





Posted in #tanka #haiku #poetry, #tanka#haigu#senryu#haiku#haibun#cinquain#etheree#nonet#shadorma, blogs, Colleen's Weekly Poetry Challenge, Reading, SF, Short stories, Writing and Poetry

Colleen’s Weekly Tanka 2020 Poetry Challenge Theme Week Traci Kenworth

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Below are three haiku and a story inspired by the theme, “The Night Sky,” by Sally Cronin. The syllables are in the form of 5/7/5, 3/5/3, and 2/3/2.

Three Haiku and a story

Traci Kenworth

colored in eggshells
the dust of the ancients
hangs bright in the air

bright dots blink
stars and planets glimpse



Traci Kenworth

Ayian had been too long in the stars.



She wanted to go home but wasn’t sure there even was a home to go to. The stars blinked around her, their secrets lost to her after all these years.

Would the Captain still be there?

Would the boy she’d loved?

Why had she left? Oh, yes. He’d gone on to adventure first. She couldn’t stand the loneliness, the waiting. Out here, she thought she’d find the answer. Share the mystery and wonder of all the divinity. But if there were any gods, they were hiding. Now, she longed for the ship she’d spent her teen years on, learning, growing, finding love. The home she’d known before that was gone. Decimated by hunger and fear.

In the end, her people had gone mad.

If she stayed out here any longer, she feared she would as well.

She longed for the crew she’d journeyed with, the places they’d gone.

Out here, there was little adventure.

With those she called family, there was an oasis of worlds to explore.

Why had she left? Had she really been so childish as to want to nurse a heartache? Where had that gotten her? She could’ve seen her friends daily and eased the hurt over some ice cream. Instead, she’d pouted and gone off on her own, determined to make the best of things. Well, she hadn’t. At first, it’d been freeing. The unfamiliarity. Needing to work to survive. The Captain had warned her she would have to. Not that she didn’t believe him. She just didn’t want to think that far ahead. Not when the pain consumed her.

She brought the orb up and veered left. The ship should run into the coordinates the Captain left her at any time. From there she would hail him. She blinked. What would she do then? Join him in his retirement? Perhaps, he’d heard from the boy. Perhaps the boy was even now, waiting for her. She pushed faster. Could it be true?

Maybe but don’t count on it. He’d loved adventure more than her.

She fisted her hands.

Don’t remind her. He’d been so eager to go, so determined to leave her.

Like others through the years.

Only the Captain had been there for her in the end.

She’d waste no more time on the boy.

A signal flashed on her panel. She glanced down and recalculated. The Captain had picked up her arrival. She grinned. He was the father she’d never had.

She glided to the planet and docked at the port. Before she even made it to the ground, the Captain was there. He hugged her and commented how she’d grown lovelier than ever. Her gaze sparkled at his compliments.

Another figure moved beside him.

The boy. Grown into a man.

“He arrived just yesterday,” the Captain said.

She went into the boy’s arms stiffly.

“Ayian. I thought of you so often.”

She drew back and took in his dark hair streaked with silver, his blue eyes crinkled with age. “Are you even the same person?” she asked, direct and to-the-point as always.

He shrugged. “I’d like to find out if we’re the same couple.”

“But we were so young.”

“Love doesn’t age.”

“No, but it can grow stale.”

“I’d like a chance, just the same.”

She closed her eyes, thought of how they’d been, and nodded.

“Why don’t we start with a walk?” He directed her down off the plank with a touch of her elbow. She waved back at the Captain. He awarded her a smile.

Perhaps not everyone left her after all.

Her hunger dimmed.

The End.

Any one in need of a cup of tea?

Coffee more your thing?

A good book or two?