When you wish upon a star…


Post written by Mike Staton.

Back in 1980, a trip to a Lancaster, Ohio, bookstore netted an astronomy book about sending unmanned probes to nearby stars. While I enjoyed the look at exotic starship propulsion systems that might come into use decades or centuries from now, what really fascinated me were the ways we could put together an interstellar mission using today’s technology.

In 1980, no one expected an interstellar mission to be flown anytime soon. Astronomers didn’t even know if planets orbited other stars. They thought so, but they lacked proof. All that has changed.

Our super-telescopes both on the ground and in space have detected hundreds of planets of varying sizes around other suns. Just this year, we learned that a planet orbits a star called Proxima Centauri. It’s a small, red M dwarf only about half as hot as the Sun and 14 percent as wide. It’s one of the stars in a triple-star system known as Alpha Centauri. For those of you who remember your high school science classes, that star system is the closest one to Earth, just over 4 light years away.


The planet nearest to Earth orbits a star called Proxima Centauri that about 4 light years away.

Now it’s realistic to contemplate an interstellar mission to a nearby star system. We have a planet we can investigate – if we can cut travel time down to a manageable time period of say 30 to 50 years. NASA’s nuclear-powered Voyagers were launched in the summer of 1977, and are now out beyond the solar system and are still operating. For those of you who are math-challenged, the two planetary probes are into their 39th year of operation.

Based on the Voyagers, unmanned nuclear-powered probes can last for decades. But can we use current or feasible future technology to cut travel time down to three to four decades for a flyby of Proxima Centauri’s planet?


To be launched in 2018, the Webb Space Telescope should tell us more about the planet, but some think they’d like an even closer look at it via an unmanned probe.

Investors led by a Russian billionaire philanthropist think they can mount a mission to Alpha Centauri within a generation. Yuri Milner is investing $100 million toward a research program to send nanocraft that would reach the planet in about 20 years. The goal is to reach a speed that’s about 20 percent the speed of light, or 37,000 miles per second. The technology isn’t farfetched.

The plan is to develop nano-sized cameras, sensors, maneuvering thrusters and communication equipment for a tiny gram-scale robotic probe. A ground-based kilometer-scale laser would beam 100-gigawatt laser pulses through the atmosphere to multiple probes. Light sails would allow the probes to ride those beams to Proxima Centauri’s planet. In the microgravity vacuum of space, the torrent of photons unleashed by the laser would push the tiny craft to relativistic speeds. The nanoprobes would be launched into Earth orbit by the thousands. Not able to decelerate, they would briefly collect data at Alpha Centauri and beam it back to Earth.

Another interstellar option has always fascinated me – a slingshot gravity assist from Jupiter and our Sun. I first read about it in that book I purchased back in 1980. In researching a solar gravity assist, I’ve learned that a close swing-by of the Sun in combination with a high-thrust burn at closest approach can send an unmanned space probe into interstellar space, but isn’t practical for a flight to the three-star Alpha Centauri system. It would take thousands of years to reach the planet.


The new planet, Proxima b, is tidally locked like the Earth’s moon. That means there may be a ring of habitability around the planet.

The exoplanet, dubbed Proxima Centauri b, has a mass at least 1.3 times that of Earth, meaning it’s potentially rocky. It orbits the star every 11.2 days at a distance of only 0.05 times the Earth-Sun distance, or roughly one-tenth the space between Mercury and the Sun. That places it right in the star’s putative habitable zone.

No one actually has seen the planet, even via a telescope. But they know it exists because they’ve seen its gravity tug on the red dwarf star it orbits. Its year lasts only 11.2 days, an orbit too tight to pick out a planet from the blinding glare of a star. Some are calling it the Earth Next Door and that’s because it could have an atmosphere and water. In 2018, NASA’s James Webb space telescope (JWST) could provide an answer once it’s in space by sampling the star system’s infrared light.

Proxima b is apparently tidally locked like Earth’s Moon, where one side always faces Earth. In the case of Proxima b, one side of the exoplanet always faces its star, awash in permanent daylight, the other side trapped in an endless cold night. If the exoplanet has an atmosphere, it would circulate warmth from the day side to the night side – and prevent water from boiling off into space. A ring of habitability could exist between the day and night sides.


One proposal for an unmanned starship is to propel it to the nearest star using a powerful laser beam aimed from Earth.

According to Business Insider, “When a rocky planet is warmed up by a star, it absorbs and re-emits light. Yet rocky planets emit a different kind of infrared light than is given off by stars like Proxima Centauri. So instead of trying to photograph a tiny planet in a flood of visible light, JWST may only need to hunt for specific wavelengths of infrared light in the glare.”

So if a ring of habitability turns out to exist on Proxima Centauri b, maybe someday the planet could become mankind’s first colony on a world that orbits a star other than our Sun.

# # #

Mike’s the author of a published fantasy trilogy called Larenia’s Shadow. The novels – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair – are available for purchase on the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. He’s working on a Civil War adventure/romance novel titled Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep.

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Finding the Good Among the Bad and the Ugly


photo from FanArtTV via Google Images

This post by Gayle M. Irwin

We received the news as we traveled back to town from our cabin: a friend had tragically died in a motorcycle accident. He was 51 years old. My husband had known Brian Scott Gamroth for nearly two decades. The Casper community had woken up to the sound of his voice on the radio for about that same length of time. All of Wyoming benefited from his presence not only on the air, but also through his charity work. Brian cared about Casper, he cared about Wyoming, and he cared about people. He was a philanthropic individual, a family man, a friend to many, from cowboys to senators, and he was passionate about many things. The radio station, our community, the state, and certainly Brian’s friends and family members, have big holes in their hearts with the sudden and unexpected passing of Brian Scott. So do Greg and I.

Ironically, Brian died not far from where my parents live in Montana, along a highway I often travel when I visit. Even more ironic, my parents were with Greg and I when the news about Brian’s death came via another friend’s text. I’m still sorting out the potential meaning of those ironies; perhaps to be more vigilant as I drive, especially on that roadway; or perhaps to live a generous, passionate, and compassionate life as Brian did. I will likely reflect on these things when I attend his public memorial service tomorrow (sadly, Greg is out of town for work on Monday and not able to attend, but he did create a short video in honor of Brian that will likely be shown during the memorial).

A few days after the stunning news about Brian’s death, I learned that Neva Bodin’s sister had passed. I also learned a friend is experiencing an uncertain health situation (she’s had several rough health goes the past few years), as well as heard about the passing of another’s friend’s 19-year-old cat – the kitty had been part of her life since a young kitten. Other friends are going through financial hardships, as are many in my community and state due to the downturn in the energy sector. Like dark thunderstorm clouds, sadness hangs heavily over hearts and communities I care about; and over mine as well.

img_1705With the bad and the ugly of this past week, however, have been incredible blessings. Autumn arrived and the leaves of bushes and trees in and around Casper are in full fall glory. Casper Mountain, upon which my cabin resides, has exploded with shades of gold, red, and orange. Greg and I took my parents to Rocky Mountain National Park to experience the eons-old mating ritual of Rocky Mountain elk – the bulls (males) bugling, challenging one another for the company of cows (females), gathering harems of those girls and preparing to add to the population of this majestic species.


I traveled to the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming on Friday in order to attend a day-long writer’s workshop sponsored by a Wyoming writers’ group known as the Bearlodge Writers, named in honor of the Native American name for Devil’s Tower. Again, autumn was in full regalia, with coulees ablaze with crimson, buttermilk, ginger, carrot, lemon, and russet. Mule deer, white-tailed deer, and wild turkeys meandered the landscape — and the highway (thankfully, no car-animal collisions occurred!) I interacted with writers during the workshop that I had not seen in years and met new creative friends, and I learned from a woman who not only studied the craft of writing in college, but who has experienced success as a novel writer. I don’t consider myself a novel writer, but it’s an itching I’ve experienced during the past few years that I’ll likely scratch a bit more in the coming months and years – especially after finding precious nuggets of information and encouragement from this workshop and from other writers closest to me.


Within the past weeks of stress and distress I’ve experienced some positives. Mourning loss is necessary, but as I write in my book for owners of blind dogs, “don’t get stuck there.” Depression and discouragement, anger and grief can hammer-lock on us if we allow. Don’t allow! Find the good within the bad and the ugly, whether it be the beauty of nature around you or the encouragement of fellow writers regarding your creativity. We all travel choppy waves in this ocean of life – most of us don’t have smooth sailing across the glassy sea. Sometimes in fact, we experience tidal waves from which we’re sure we’ll drown. My prayer, my hope, my wish, is that each of us, when faced with loss such as unexpected deaths or job layoffs, even rejection of our writing, will do what we must – grieve – but not get stuck there. Instead, find beauty in the ashes, find good among the bad and the ugly, for it is there: we just need to re-discover it, hold fast to it, remember and treasure it.



Gayle_signing photoGayle M. Irwin is a Wyoming author, writer, and speaker. She composes inspirational pet stories for children and adults, including a guidebook for owners of blind dogs. In addition to her own books, her stories been featured in six Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as Sundown Press’ summer release Pawprints on My Heart. Gayle is currently working on three more books, including a children’s cat story, a rescue dog story, and a devotional-style book called Seasons of Life, Seasons of Nature. Learn more about Gayle and her writing at www.gaylemirwin.com.


Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   SageBigAdventureFront-small    BookCoverPreview_Codys Cabin_Aug 2016.do  Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Pawprints Book   Spirit of America book

Posted in challenges, Death, Grief, overcomer, Perseverance, tragedy, unique | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

My Sister is Gone Now


How blessed to have four handsome cousins present at my sister’s funeral.

by Neva Bodin

We were on a five day camping trip to the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota when I got the call that my sister was dying. We were still sleeping on the second morning of this going-to-be idyllic trip, consisting of just me and my husband, sandwich meat and bread, and eating out, when I got the call that she was probably not going to last more than a few minutes. And it was the first day it wasn’t supposed to rain, the sun was out, and we had a lengthy four-wheeling trip planned. Just the night before I had made the comment, “Isn’t this a wonderful vacation?”

So amidst the chaotic past two and a half weeks since that phone call, after which we rushed to pack up the camper, return home almost six hours away, drive 11 hours to my sister, (she has no other immediate family as she never married or had children), and after which my sister miraculously recovered from literally knocking on death’s door, (she was sitting up eating when I arrived at her bedside), then five days later again declined and eventually left us, I still have some memories of the two nights and one day we were at that campground. And I treasure them: eating two wonderful suppers out, visiting a museum on a rainy day, coffee in an old bank fashioned into a coffee house, a cool four-wheeler ride under cloudy skies that led us to an old gold mine, and eating those sandwiches.


A squirrel tried to retrieve a piece of cloth for its winter nest at the old gold mine

So life has been a roller coaster. Idyllic little vacation, cut short by a decision on whether to resuscitate (code in the medical field) my sister, a tense day and a half before I reached her bedside, an amazing recovery for an 86 year old, a five day decline during which I sat at her bedside during each day and the last two nights, and planning her funeral.

But God has placed an army of angels in the form of friends, family, and community around me. I do not say this lightly.


My friend Diane and I, a sister of the heart

My friend Diane, whom I stay with when visiting my sister, and who listened to my rambling about everything happening, was with me every minute I needed her presence, even staying the night with me beside my sister. Her two sons and their loved ones checked on my welfare and gave me their support constantly. Cousins in other states texted their love and concern.

Friends and family from far and near let me know they were thinking of and praying for me. A small circle of peace would settle over me, soft, like a descending cloud at times, I believe as a result.

It’s a small community and a friendly one; so many greeted me and offered condolences after my sister died without my having to spread the word. The hospital and nursing home staff, who have come to know me and my sister quite well, some of whom I worked with 30 years ago, were super supportive and attentive to me and my friend as we sat vigil. My husband and daughters couldn’t come until two days before the funeral. But they too supported me through phone calls.

My sister, fifteen years older, was the last of my family of origin to die.

An upside of my emotional roller coaster was the funeral celebration. Her friends, many of whom have become my friends, as well as my friends and relatives came. My friend from Nevada, cousins from Arizona and Florida, grade school classmates, a nursing school classmate, and the community, many whom I hadn’t seen in years, came to say goodbye to my sister, and give me strength through their caring. Many shared memories during the healing prayer service the night before the funeral. Having a chance to say goodbye to her and her earthly shell healed as well.

There is still much to do for my sister as we deal with her earthly treasures left behind. Many friends have offered to help in any way they can.

While life can be full of dark clouds, they are always pierced by shafts of sunlight, warming our hearts and showing a forward path, if we but open our eyes.


A spring fawn, later with its twin, visited our campground in SD

So I won’t give up my Pollyanna habit of thinking, and I’ll concentrate on the habit to “accentuate the positive, latch on to the affirmative, eliminate the negative, and don’t mess with mister-in-between,” as the song by Johnny Mercer says. And maybe our next little vacation will go as planned.


A Tom and his harem visited our camping spot in the Black Hills

Posted in unique | 13 Comments

Put a Sock In It!

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Definition of language:

A system of communication by speaking, writing, or making signs in a way that can be understood, or any of the different systems of communication used in particular regions (Cambridge Dictionary)

Language is a part of life. There are some polite rules to live by when using language:

  • Be careful not to talk about yourself all the time. Give the person you are talking to a chance to tell you about him/herself. You might uncover some hidden gems that will add drama to your writing in the future.

I come from a family who talked a lot (mostly all at once). I thought it was normal to talktalking horse “over” people so I’d be heard. I realize now that it would have been much better had I grown up knowing when and when not to speak. It definitely would have made life easier.

Even now, when my siblings and I get together with our families it’s bedlam. It’s fun, loud and reminds me of my youth. Everyone talks at once. Somehow we all get the message each person is trying to relay. We laugh a lot and to say our get-togethers are boisterous would be a non sequitur.

sw_Listening_sa209430.jpgListening is a virtue. While my siblings and I make friends easily and fast, we have probably told them our whole life in five minutes or less, without taking a breath. At that time we give the other person time to talk and wonder why they look at us with eyes glazed over and are stuttering as they try to get words out.

“Put a Sock In It” is an idiom that seems to fit the situation. The definition of it is:

An impolite way of telling someone to be quiet.

Used to tell someone to be quiet or stop making so much noise.

Now think about your writing. Does this apply? Do you drone on and on about the miniscule parts of the story, or do you get straight to the point and then go on? If readers 0029find themselves bogged down in either too much information or too much about the main character, it’s time to “put a sock in it.” Watch for black holes that try to suck the sock in, where it will never be seen again as you continue writing drivel.

At this stage in my life I watch not only what I write but also what I say. I’ve become a better listener and don’t always talk over people, but take a breath and allow them to talk. It’s been a hard habit to break, and I can’t always say I succeed, but at least I’m aware of the problem and I try to keep it to a minimum.

Do you have places in your writing where you should “put a sock in it?” Do you recognize those places and take time to whittle the writing down, sit back and see if the narration plays out well in listening to it?

file4811233877913.jpgIf you don’t pay close attention to your speech while writing, you could end up with some of those “black holes.” Find them and “put a sock in it!”

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders





Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)





13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing




13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an Ebook




You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





Posted in author, Authors, books, Definition of language, family, language, life lessons, listening, Put a Sock in It!, unique | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

It’s the Great Pumpkin Spice

your Profile PhotoThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Happy Autumn, or as I like to call it Pumpkin Spice day. The day when every other flavor dies and pumpkin spice becomes the only flavor available until the peppermint mocha days of December.

I like pumpkin spice the way God intended, in a pie. I don’t want it in my cheerios, oreos or coffee.

Other than the over abundance of pumpkin spice, I love fall. I think it is such a romantic season, with the trees all ablaze in color; plus darkness falling early means candles (and who doesn’t look their best in the glow of a candle?). Not to mention the cooler weather is perfect for snuggling under a blanket with someone special or your favorite book.

I don’t even mind that my garden is almost at its end. After a really long, hot summer I am happy to be released from watering duty. Also, I am already looking forward to next year’s garden.

And, most importantly fall is the start of knitting season. Yes, I knit during summer, but not as often, some days it was just too hot to be handling wool. Plus, I can start wearing all my knit items again.

What is your favorite part of fall?

Browse my jewelry on Etsy

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Cat Lady* Writes Again


Posted by Kathy Waller


You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.
~ Mark Twain,  A Tramp Abroad



Ernest Davis-Waller on back of recliner

I’m sitting in my recliner, feet up, laptop on lap, Ernest Davis-Waller stretched out on the wide overstuffed armrest to my right. His left foreleg stretches down so his paw rests against me. He’s making biscuits on my leg. Clothing doesn’t protect me: his claws pierce my flesh. I take his leg, move it up to the armrest. He reaches down and resumes making biscuits. I move his leg back up… he reaches down… If only he didn’t look so pleased with himself. But finally I give up. He’s had a difficult day. I guess.

William Davis-Waller is in the hospital. Friday night I noticed he was limping a bit, and I knew what was wrong. Saturday morning, the veterinarian diagnosed diabetes. We fed him special food the rest of the weekend and took him back to the vet early Monday morning to stay until his glucose stabilizes.


William Davis-Waller watching PBS

William and Ernest came to us from Austin Pets Alive, which rescues cats and dogs from the animal shelter and fosters them until the cats and dogs are ready to rescue people like the Davis-Wallers. They were six months old when we got them, Ernest first, and William a month later. They hit it off immediately and spent the first night practicing for the Daytona 500–from the bed to the floor to the closet to the bed to the floor to the closet, round and round and round, trampling the humans, all night long.

Five days after they met, Ernest developed a tummy complaint and was admitted to the hospital. Within twenty-four hours, William stopped eating and lay limp and unresponsive in my lap. I took him to the hospital, where he was found to be running a high fever. Ernest was better but not ready to be released. I left William and went home.


Ernest and William sharing recliner

That afternoon, I called to check on William. He was fine, said the vet. She’d put him in the cage with Ernest, and in a couple of hours his fever was gone and he was all perky and eating like a horse. She wanted to keep both over the weekend.

By Monday, however, things had broken down a bit. Ernest, it seems, had told William in no uncertain terms that the cage wasn’t big enough for both of them. According to the veterinarian’s assistant, he used some pretty sickening grammar.

William was moved, post-haste, to his own accommodations.

But back at home, they teamed up again, brothers in arms. And for the past seven years, except for the night Ernest spent at the emergency veterinary clinic–he ate ribbon again–they haven’t been separated. Until this week.

I dropped in this afternoon to check on William and, just in case, told the vet about his dependence on Ernest. He was doing well, his glucose level was down, and he would be ready to come home in a few more days. And would I like to visit him?

William on piano, where he is not supposed to be

William on piano, where he is not supposed to be

They put us in one of the examination rooms and closed the door. William didn’t say hi, how you, no pleasantries at all. Nothing. Instead, we wrestled. He wanted off the exam table. I sat down and held him on my lap. He wanted back on the exam table. He purred twice, for a total of four seconds, and only trying to get me off guard so I would loose my hold. In short, he wanted outta there.

The worst part was that for the full half-hour we were together, he engaged in projectile shedding. I’m used to that, it’s what cats do at the vet’s, but it’s darned uncomfortable when you’re using both hands to corral the beast and can’t spare one to get the fur off your tongue, where it shouldn’t have migrated to in the first place.

William by himself

William by himself

The really worst part, of course, is that he has diabetes. When he came to us, he was all ears, tail and tummy, and he vacuumed up every bite we gave him. He grew into a larger cat than I’d expected him to, based on his small, tapered feet, and the ears, tail, and tummy shrank to proper proportion. But he continued to put on weight. I knew he was becoming a candidate for diabetes. And though I tried to take weight off him, I wasn’t consistent in my efforts. Being a good parent means you sometimes have to do things neither you nor your child, nor your cat, enjoys. If you don’t do those things, you end up feeling guilty and doing things you both like even less. In this case dealing with needles and syringes and blood tests.

On the positive side, the veterinarian told me something I didn’t know–that with proper treatment, diabetic cats sometimes improve and can survive without insulin injections. Like Type II diabetes in humans? I asked. Yes. That makes sense. And now we have something to work toward.

And I can go to bed tonight without worrying that William is running a high fever because he’s lonesome for Ernest.


Ears, tail, and tummy

There was a post on Facebook yesterday that claimed the position you sleep in reveals something about you. If you sleep flat on your back, you’re quiet and reserved and have a high sense of self-worth. If you sleep on your side, you’re calm and laid-back when you’re awake. If you sleep on your back and snore, you’re irritable (reasonable, since you possibly have sleep apnea, but that’s not quite the same as being reserved or laid-back).

I don’t know how I sleep–except that in the morning the sheet and blankets are usually on my side of the bed. I’m afraid to ask what that means.

But for the most part, the position I sleep in depends on two things:

  1. how cold I am; and
  2. how many cats occupy the space that rightfully belongs to my legs.

I’ve taken so long moseying through this piece that Ernest has abandoned me for David’s recliner. He may or may not go with me upstairs to bed. Whatever happens, I know that for tonight, at least, one of my legs will be assured a place to stretch out.

But I’ll be glad when William comes home, even if it means I have to sleep sitting up.



*I’m not really a cat lady or even a cat person. I’m a dog, cat, horse, parakeet, cow, and chicken person, and I would like to be a raccoon person but I’m smart enough not to try that. But I can say, with Mark Twain,

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
~  “An Incident,” Who Is Mark Twain?


Mark Twain’s thoughts about cats appear at http://www.twainquotes.com

Posted in Animals, Cats, pet rescue, pets | Tagged , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Acting Out at Open Mic Sessions

Abbie J. Taylor 010



This Post by Abbie Johnson Taylor


I was born in New York City to want-to-be actors who realized the importance of having a day job. That didn’t stop them from acting, though. We moved from New York to Colorado, Arizona, and finally Wyoming, and in just about every town, my parents became involved in local community theater.


As a child, I watched, fascinated, as they rehearsed. Alone in my room, I acted out my own scenes. In Tucson when I was eight, I got my first role, a small one, in the local theater guild’s production of Lysistrata by Aristophanes.


Despite my limited vision, I was able to acquire minor roles in high school and college plays. I was also active in the speech team where I performed interpretations of drama and poetry for competitions. I even won a few awards.


Therefore, when I attended my first Wyoming Writers conference over ten years ago, I was not daunted by the prospect of two open mic sessions. In these activities, writers are encouraged to read their poems, stories, or book excerpts in front of an audience. I wouldn’t win any awards for my performance, but it would be a great way to share my work.


The first night, I read an essay about how I thought my parents’ fights were plays they were rehearsing. After the first few paragraphs, the audience’s laughter nearly knocked me flat on my back. I’d spent months polishing the piece and reading it for practice and forgotten how funny it was. I managed to get through the rest of my performance and keep a straight face, and many people afterward told me how much they enjoyed it.


Since then, I’ve usually been one of the first to sign up for open mic sessions at workshops and other events. Because I love to sing and have been told I’m good at that, I enjoy sharing poems I’ve written that incorporate songs. You can listen to an example here. This past summer, friend and fellow writer Christine Valentine and I brought down the house in Riverton during this year’s Wyoming Writers conference with our rendition of Christine’s poem, “Driven Insane by Mitzi Gaynor,” which uses lyrics from South Pacific and Brigadoon. Christine has written another poem she thinks we can do together so maybe by next summer if not sooner…


Instead of being on a stage under bright lights strutting someone else’s stuff, I’m in front of a lectern in a meeting room, sharing my own work, promoting my books. As I’m sure you know by now, my latest, a memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is now available from Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords. I look forward to sharing my work at future open mic sessions.


Have you ever acted in community theater? Tell me about it in the comments field.




Author Abbie Johnson Taylor


We Shall Overcome


How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver


That’s Life: New and Selected Poems


My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds


Click to hear an audio trailer.


Like me on Facebook.




Posted in Creativity, Fun, Memories, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

History of Dolls by Barbara Schlichting

IMG_3075(1)Since my A First Ladies Mystery series is set in a dollhouse, 
I thought it’d be interesting to learn the history of dolls.


Doll origins date to the beginning of time. Women passed their dolls 
down to their daughters as toys. In ancient times, they were considered 
part of religious rites and ceremonies. Greek literature supports this theory.

Nurenburg, Germany, records show dollmakers in the early fifteenth century. 
Dolls have been handmade for centuries, using clay, fur, wood, wax, clothespins,
rags, cornhusks, and let’s not forget the Russian stacking dolls. 
This names a few of the types of dolls.
Fashion dolls were popular in the 1300’s. With the settling of North America, 
women made dolls for their daughters. Porcelain and bisque dolls became 
popular in the 1800’s. After WWII, doll makers began manufacturing them 
with plastic, rubber, and other durable materials. Vinyl changed the doll 
makeup, allowing the head to have hair. Mass-marketing has taken 
over the market. Traditional dollmakers are now using materials from the 
past, which I like the concept since it connects the past with the present.



Posted in author exposure to potential readers, Authors, book cover, high school reunion, historical interpretation, historical novels, unique | 12 Comments

A New Adventure

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

I am always up for exploring new territory.  I eagerly wander wooded areas, fields and streams in search of wild critters to photograph.  I’m not picky any wild critter will do, big or small it doesn’t matter.



Recently I embarked on a totally new type of adventure.  Authors and photographers are always looking for just the right home for our work.  It might be a magazine, an on line journal, a blog or as part of an anthology, or maybe a publisher.



About 2 years ago my sister and I began work on a memoir.  We carefully crafted our memories into a work we are both proud of and now it needs a home. Finding it a proper home requires someone who knows the publishing industry better and we do, an agent.

Finding an agent can be a full time job.   Our search began on the internet on the Agent Query website.  There I found a wealth of information on hundreds and hundreds of agents.  This first phase of the search yielded 961 names.



By eliminating any agents not currently taking submissions, anyone that doesn’t specifically mention they accept memoirs, and anyone not with an agency, the list was reduced to 200 names.



This was an adventure like I had never experienced before.  My sister and I chatted, discussed and then went a step further. It was time to go back to the internet and look up our candidates on websites like Absolutewrite and WritersCafé.  We wanted to see what other authors had to say about these agents.  Then it was time to look a little closer at each agent and the agencies they worked for.  The Predators and Editors website helped out here.  While we are eliminating potential candidates we took any agents not in the USA off our list.


This brought they list down to 70 agents that worked for 48 agencies.  It was time to check out the agencies they worked for, and each agents track history and what they could do for us.  That took our list to just 21 agents.

The next step was to see what these agents wanted us to submit.  They each have their own criteria and we need to send them just what they want.  Once we had sifted through what we needed to send to whom we took a deep breath and did one last read through of the manuscript.



Just last week our first submission headed for Massachusetts over the internet.  This week another submission will go out via snail mail.  This time 25 printed pages will be mailed to New York City.   The plan is to send out one submission a week for the next several weeks while we wait.   It can take weeks or even months to hear back from an agent. The patients I have developed in the field will really come in handy now.



Betty and I will be patiently waiting

So have you had any new adventures this summer?  Are you forcing yourself to be patient while you wait for something?


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Cover All the Birds I See Cover

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Posted in Agents, Animals, author, Authors, books, Close Ups & Close Encounters, family, memoir, Memoirs, Publishing, S J Brown, s. j. brown, unique | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Anticipation >Prediction >Planning

SONY DSCThis post is by Nancy Jardine.

Some of the readers of this blog may know that I eagerly awaited the end of August 2016, the reason being that I was making a trip to the US from my Scottish homeland. I anticipated some lovely hot sunny days, brand new places to visit and the joys of reuniting with US based family members before, during, and after a family wedding.


Pasadena City Hall

I had a brilliant holiday and was completely in awe of all the natural wonders (and some man made ones) I saw in Nevada, Utah, Arizona and California.


San Gabriel Mountains behind Los Angeles

Deserts; impressive colourful canyons; sprawling cities (some ever so fanciful like Las Vegas); beautiful buildings; mountain ranges…I loved them all.

This photo below makes it look as though there was just one peak at the top of the San Gabriel Mountains, California. Not so at all! The range is massive, majestic and the drops down onto the canyons are all spectacular. (Yes, that tiny brick wall around 1 foot high is all that separates a vehicle and a person from a drop of thousands of feet- YIKES!)

But now I’m home I have to do the Anticipation >Prediction >Planning thing. Sadly, no, I’m not planning another trip (though that sounds so appealing) but I do have to anticipate, make predictions, and plan the last months of 2016 in my author calendar. As my fellow writers will know, that will not just be anticipating adding to, and hopefully completing, my current writing in progress. The DREADED MARKETING planning looms! It will be for both paperback and for ebook sales.New Facebook withnew TE

Paperback Sales… I’ve sold lots of my paperback novels already this year at my regular Craft Fair venues and have had really encouraging feedback from return customers. Having now sold at these fairs for 2 years, I thought I could predict approximate paperback sales over a ‘selling season’ (April- Dec). I added to my stocks in May and June, guessing that I’d have sufficient supplies to last till Dec., but since I’ve sold more of The Taexali Game and Topaz Eyes than I had anticipated I’m happily back to the planning board for those two!

With the Christmas/Winter season approaching, I’ve booked three much larger venues with potentially a lot more footfall to sell to. Back to prediction. What’s a realistic amount of paperbacks that I’m likely to sell at these new venues? How many new copies should I buy so that my stocks are sufficient?

One venue in mid-November will have over 100 craft & design tables with the anticipation of something upwards of 1000 visitors looking at the goodies on sale. I’ve attended this yearly event before as a shopper and know it’s always a seething mass of browser/customers (event organised by the American Women’s Association of Aberdeen). I’ve been advised to bring lots of stock with me but many should I take? Anticipate> predict> plan…I’m ordering new stock today!

Ah, ebooks. They’re so different… I don’t know about you, but I find that ebook sales are much harder to plan for and much, much harder to achieve. I find it really difficult to decide which services I can afford that might just help sell more ebooks. I now have a tiny profit (and I do mean tiny) from my paperback sales that I want to use to promote my ebooks but like most authors (I believe), I can’t afford to waste it. I’ve looked at a number of suggestions but many depend on having a clutch of 5 star reviews (maybe 10- 30)- which I don’t at present have, so I need to use sites which are reputable though maybe less optimistic.

Last year, I spent fees for a whole year on what I thought might be a good author/ reader site and didn’t get any ebook sales from it. I tried a couple of Facebook adverts that resulted in almost nothing- though that was possibly due to poor targets being set by me. With better knowledge I might try FB adverts again but it’s a taxing learning curve putting up ads with FaceBook!

This week I’ve paid a small fee to a site for their basic package to promote my mystery thriller Topaz Eyes. We’ll see how that goes. I need to find a suitable site to promote my Teen Time Travel historical adventure The Taexali Game– but nothing yet seems tailor made for a 10 – 14 year age group. More internet searching looms! But…If anyone has any suggestions of great promotional sites that only require minimum fees, please share – I’d be very grateful!


I’m this close to the North sea, today.

Meanwhile, till I get better at the ebook marketing, I’m out today (Saturday) at a new sea-side venue -Newtonhill- with my FOCUS (meaning Festival of Crafts Unique to Scotland) Craft Fair buddies. If get the chance after it’s over I’ll be off down the sand dunes for a little wander! I fancy a paddle in the surf if the day turns out to be a sunny one.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend- enjoy!

Nancy Jardine writes:~ Historical Romantic Adventures set in Roman Scotland; Contemporary Romantic Mysteries set in fabulous world-wide locations; and Historical Time Travel Adventures for Teens.

New Facebook withnew TEYou’ll find her at: 

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk   http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Twitter @nansjar  Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:   http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; and various other ebook stores.



Posted in anticipation, internet marketing, Marketing and promotion, unique | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments