Because He Survived By T.R. Heinan



He was rock star famous and Warren Buffet rich during his lifetime, but, unless you are a native Portuguese, you probably never heard of him.  His life was a series of improbable events that significantly changed the history of Western civilization.  Born out of wedlock, he became the father of royal dynasties, yet he died penniless.  With only 6,500 volunteers, he challenged an army of 30,000 professional soldiers, led by the King of Castile himself. It was the decisive battle for Portugal’s right to self-determination and independence. Few, if any of his contemporaries expected him to survive. Not only did he survive, he defeated the entire Castilian army in just one afternoon.  His name was Nuno Alvares Pereira, and had he not won that battle, it is likely that you or I would not even exist

Born in 1360, Nuno Pereira was the natural son of the Prior of Crato, who was himself the son of the Archbishop of Braga, both of whom appear to have had some difficulty keeping their solemn vows of chastity.  Given the circumstances of his birth, he seemed an unlikely candidate to become the ancestor of many European royal families.  Yet, both King Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic of Spain, the monarchs who sponsored the voyages of Christopher Columbus, were direct descendants of Nuno. So was Emperor Charles V, who ruled over more territory than any other European monarch, including most of the Americas.  Catherine of Braganća, Queen Consort of England, for whom the Borough of Queens in New York was named, Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination triggered World War I, and the Royal Houses of Braganća who ruled over Portugal and Brazil, were all directly descended from this man.  By somehow surviving the Battle of Aljubarrota on August 14, 1385, Nuno not only preserved the independence of his native Portugal, but was lived to start a family and have a daughter who would marry into royal family of Portugal. Her decedents would rule much of Europe for centuries.

Nuno lived at a time when both his nation and his church were in total upheaval.  His elderly king was planning to offer his only legitimate heir, Princess Beatrice, into the royal family of Castile. His Queen was having a rather public and scandalous affair with an agent of Castile who hoped to serve as regent. Three different men claimed to be Pope.  Following the wrong one could have serious consequences. A mob had tossed the bishop of Lisbon to his death from the tower of the Cathedral.  Confusion and revolution reigned.

During this period, the Arthurian tales had begun to reach Portugal from the shores of England and, as a young boy, Nuno told his parents that he wanted to become a great knight, a knight like Sir Galahad.  At age 13, after taking it upon himself to spy on Castilian military scouts and reporting his findings to his king, Nuno’s wish was granted and he was invested as a knight of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, known today as the Knights of Malta.  So small was the boy at the time, that he had to borrow amour from the king’s teenaged natural son for the ceremony.

It is said that Nuno may be the only knight in history to have lived up to the ideals of the legendary Galahad. His reputation for chivalry soon spread beyond the borders of his native land.  In time of war, he fed the hungry populations of his Castilian opposition at his own expense. He customarily refused to share in the spoils of war. Once, he was so hungry that he traded his horse for a loaf of bread, then decided to give all of that loaf to a group of starving English knights who had allied themselves with Portugal.  It is recorded that Nuno even allowed squires from the enemy forces to meet with him in peace, just because they wanted to see the “Great Nuno” about whom they had heard so many stories.

In appreciation for Nuno’s unexpected victory over the Castilian army, Portugal’s new King John bestowed Nuno with a great number of titles and, to the consternation of various nobles, granted him land amounting to almost a third of the nation. Nuno, a deeply religious man, attributed his victory to the protection of the Virgin Mary. Historians would note that masterful military strategy, a travel weary Castilian opposition suffering from dysentery, and a few hundred expert archers provided to Nuno by the king of England also played a significant role in achieving his “miraculous” victory.  Nuno believed in the power of prayer, but his was never a jingoistic, arrogant conviction that God was exclusively on his side.  Nuno fought side by side with English troops. He died the same year as Joan of Arc, who fought against the English.  His writings suggest that he would have had no problem accepting a God who favored justice over nationalities.

Having suffered greatly from thirst during the heat of the battle, Nuno erected a small chapel to be built and ordered that a pitcher water be kept there for thirsty travelers.  That chapel and the offer of free water remain to this day. Nearby, there remains a small monument that he erected in memory two of his own brothers who, seeing that Nuno was vastly outnumbered, died opposing him in battle with never fulfilled hopes of obtaining some land or title from the Castilian king.

As peace returned to Portugal, Nuno joined his close friend, Prince Henry the Navigator, in promoting mathematics, rudimentary science, and geographical understanding.  In doing this, he helped shelter many Jews and Moslems who were in danger of expulsion from Portugal.  He joined the Queen in a campaign to restore morality and marital fidelity to the royal court.  Finally, after the death of his wife, when his daughter reached the age of majority, he renounced all of his titles, built a monastery for the Carmelite religious order in Lisbon, and then entered that order as a lowly brother spending his remaining years under a vow of poverty as the monastery gate keeper.  During his lifetime, Nuno acquired incredible wealth, but by the time he died, he had given all of it to religious and charitable projects, one third of his fortune went to support children orphaned during Portugal’s wars to maintain independence.  Though he was known for his courage and brilliant military strategy, he grew to hate war and is remembered in Portugal as The Peacemaker. On April 1, 1431, at the monastery in Lisbon that he built and joined, Nuno died while his brother monks read the passion of Christ to him from the Scriptures.  Almost six centuries later, in 2009, Nuno was declared a saint of the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI.

Based on the reports of his humility written by his contemporaries, I suspect Nuno would not like care for the many statues and monuments bearing his image that can now be seen throughout his native Portugal. His model of charity for the weak and marginalized has inspired the formation religious confraternities named for him in both Europe and North America and an orphanage chapel bearing his name now exits in Mexico. In life, Nuno preferred obscurity to fame. He believed that any good he may have accomplished was the work of his God. His worldview seems to have been less “God is on our side” and more “we can do nothing at all without him”.   It was a remarkable outlook for a man of his era and perhaps one that would be helpful in our own age.  I suspect no small number of Kurds, Palestinians, Tibetans and Basques would admire his firm belief in justice of national self-determination.  I believe that our world would benefit greatly from his example of humility and less boasting that God is on our side. I believe that we will never be able to fully grasp the significance of the ripples that just one human life can spread through time.

St. Nuno was an extraordinary individual whose contribution to both secular and religious history, while not altogether forgotten, has been largely ignored. We cannot imagine what course history would have taken had he died in battle, but he remains to me both an inspiration and a striking example of courage, humility, and the unfathomable value of every human life.


T.R. Heinan is the author of L’immortalité: Madam Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen, a reflection on justice and compassion set in the historical context of a haunting 19th century New Orleans legend.

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ZZK.Menu of Life

I know what you’re thinking. Since when did Sal Buttaci become an authority on life? How presumptuous! He is neither a guru, a licensed counselor, nor an aging whiz kid privy to all life’s answers. So let me suggest you return the arrows of criticism to your quiver. Let me state from the start: this is merely an article in which I express my opinions about how to make the best of the life we are given.

(1) Face life.

Keep fear at bay. Too many of us hesitate with every step because we are afraid of the outcome. If we choose this and reject that, what will happen to us? Given a particular opportunity, we sometimes show our cynical side by distrusting the offer, suspecting the opportunity to be a masqueraded danger to avoid at all cost. It is certainly acceptable if we cannot move our feet in the clutch of nightmare, but we should not regard life as  a frightening experience. We must never allow fear to become irrational. Never permit it to stop us from living as fully and as honestly as we can.

(2)  Embrace life.

See the good out there. Realize you are the beneficiary of all those wondrous things for which too many take for granted. Simple things. A sunny day. A snowfall on the doorstep of holidays. Rain teeming down on a windy autumn day. Wisdom out of the mouths of children. The ring of laughter. Do you see what I mean? Life is replete with goodness that increases its value with our appreciation. Look around you. Beauty is everywhere

(3)  Chase life.

Don’t wait for joy. Seek it out. Avoid false joys that come when we negatively indulge ourselves in drugs and liquor and whatever other bad habits deplete us. Never chase the dream you know can never be caught. Seek instead the attainable and when you find it build upon it. Avoid deluding yourselves that material gain heads the list of what makes life worthy of an A. It isn’t. Ask those who acquired millions and lost it all in downward spirals of economic distress. Instead, be compassionate towards the poor and needy. Give what you can in dollars and time. Be loving to your children by spending quality time with them. Toys and gifts temporarily please them but the heartache of lost love endures. Those working hours spent earning more money for material gifts cannot be recalled. From our childhood, what we remember most vividly is the love we received or the love we were denied.

(4)  Pace life.

Rome was not built in a day, nor should our lives be lived like a race to the finish line. Pace yourself. As parents, allow your children to enjoy their young days. Let them be children, keeping in mind how few those years compared to adulthood marked by the daily responsibilities of life.

I remember one day at about ten years old I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror drawing a black mustache under my nose when my father walked in and stood behind me.

“Going to a Halloween party?” he asked, which I knew was silly. It was summertime. “No, Pa. Just wanted to see how I look in a mustache.” He smiled, then made a life prediction: “Someday you won’t need a crayon. The hair will grow on its own and you’ll wish it didn’t.” I looked at him with knitted brows. “Shaving’s no fun. You’ll see.”

Don’t be in a hurry to grow old. And when you are old, don’t think for a second you must at all times act your age. Find things to laugh about. Sing a song now and then. Don’t let love rust away. Wear your many years like a badge. Be happy you’ve done the best you could with your life.




Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at


His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.

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Okay, folks, here is a test. Leave a comment after you’ve read this post and tell me which of these five jokes are funny and humorous, and which are not. If you want to keep it simple, just write the number of the joke and Yes or No. If you want, you can explain your answer. Hey, here we go.

1. What has four legs and an arm? Answer: A happy pit bull.

2. A family of mice were surprised by a big cat. Father Mouse jumped and said, Bow-wow!” The cat ran away. “What was that, Father?” asked Baby Mouse. “Well, son, that’s why it’s important to learn a second language.” Submitted by BH LEE

3. Want to get people excited? Just put Alka-Seltzer in your mouth and pretend you’re  possessed by the devil.

4. Whoever invented “Knock-Knock” jokes should get a no-bell prize.

5. A man walks into a bar with a small dog under his arm and sits down at the counter, placing the dog on the stool next to him. The bartender says, “Sorry, pal. No dogs allowed.” The man says, “But this is a special dog – he talks!” “Yeah, right,” says the bartender. “Now get out of here before I throw you out.” “No, wait,” says the man. “I’ll prove it.” He turns to the dog and asks, “What do you normally find on top of a house?” “Roof!” says the dog, wagging his tail. “Listen, pal…” says the bartender.” Wait,” says the man, “I’ll ask another question.” He turns to the dog again and asks, “What’s the opposite of soft?” “Ruff!” exclaims the dog. “Quit wasting my time and get out of here,” says the bartender. “One more chance,” pleads the man. Turning to the dog again, he asks, “Who was the greatest baseball player that ever lived?” “Ruth!” barks the dog. “Okay, that’s it!” says the bartender, and physically throws both man and dog out the door and onto the street. Turning to the man, the dogs shrugs and says, “Maybe I should have said Dimaggio?”

What are the correct answers? The point of course is that it’s hard to say because humor is often subjective, and we don’t agree on what’s funny. What’s a knee-snapper to one person is stupid, offensive, or simply pointless to another. What doubles up your Aunt Matilda in helpless mirth leaves your Uncle Walt unfazed. Whatever you do, though, be careful joking about politics or religion. I once pissed off a friend by telling a brief Mitt Romney joke.

What about dirty jokes—do you like them? Say, have you heard the one about the travelling salesman and the one-eyed whore? She… Naw, I better not tell it. Okay, do you know how to tell who’s a virgin in Virginia? (or supply your own state name). The answer: By her out-of-state license plate.

You don’t think the last joke is funny? In addition to it being flat, dumb, and in bad taste, it’s sexist, discriminatory against women. Perhaps you believe that jokes which offend people shouldn’t be published.

Well, I think people should be offended sometimes. Their feathers should be ruffled and even plucked clean off on occasion. I for one love some dirty jokes and those which are often politically incorrect. I love Aristophanes’ classic sexual comedy Lysistrata in which Grecian women go on a sex strike to stop the Peloponnesian War. However, there is a limit. For example, I just checked some jokes online about Jews, Blacks, and Catholics, and they are REALLY offensive, so you won’t see them here.

You see, I do have some taste.
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What about your writing? Your short stories and your novels, your biographies, essays, and poems? How far are you willing to go in using humor? What chances are you willing to take? Do all your jokes have to be “clean”? Perhaps if you write a book which doesn’t offend anyone, which only supports what is safe and acceptable, your book wasn’t worth writing in the first place.

Do you like jokes at your own expense? I do, as long as they aren’t mean-spirited and go too far. I like to poke fun at my unique dancing style, which causes my partners to duck and run for cover. We know that comedians sometimes deride themselves and find humor in their personal and painful experiences. If they came up the hard way in poverty, they may work it into their routines. As a comedian, Jack Benny depended largely on three self-deprecatory jokes: (1), he was always thirty-nine years old, (2) he was a notorious tightwad, and (3) he was a terrible violin player. I believe the last two are false.

We often use humor in satirical works to ridicule and correct human vices and follies. Vices are much worse than follies. They include such sins as greed, hypocrisy, and cruelty. Plus corrupt political and social systems. Think of Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and A Modest Proposal. Orwell’s Animal Farm. The humor is sometimes biting and laser-sharp, as well as deliciously delicate, capable of eviscerating its targets without mussing their hair. In a presidential debate, Ronald Reagan once used a critical question concerning his advanced age to demolish his opponent. He said, “I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.” When Megyn Kelly recently said Donald Trump called women derogatory names like “fat pig” and “dog,” did he go too far when he said, “Only Rosie O’Donnell”? Bad taste or not, his interruption received the biggest laugh of the first Republican debate.

Have you ever watched the skits on Saturday Night Live which lampoon political and entertainment leaders? C’mon, you know you’ve howled at some of them, ignoring your better (and less interesting) nature. A guilty pleasure is still a pleasure, right?

Many jokes and cracks will offend somebody. Hell, they are meant to. As for you, Dear Reader, use your own judgment but be willing to take chances now and then. And if you are personally offended or attacked, try to live and let live. Above all, remember what Geoffrey Chaucer wrote concerning the brilliant but outrageous Miller’s narrative in The Canterbury Tales. Whatever you do, do not “maken earnest out of game.”



John B. Rosenman, a retired English professor from Norfolk State University, has published over 300 stories and 20 books. His work includes science fiction and dark erotic fiction. “The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes won the 2011 annual readers’ poll from “Preditors and Editors.” In 2013, Musa Publishing awarded his time travel story “Killers” their Top Pick. He is the former Chairman of the Board of the Horror Writers Association and the previous editor of Horror Magazine.

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The Magic of Apple Pie by D. M. Pirrone

pie slice 2

Late September brings with it my favorite season of the year. No, not autumn—though I do love the onset of crisp, cool evenings after the sweltering humidity of a Chicago summer, and the slow turning of leaves through their glorious annual palette of yellows, oranges, golds, and reds. No, the season I’m talking about is the one that foodies like me eagerly anticipate along with the Fall Equinox—apple pie season.

My family and I go apple-picking every year in late September or early October, along with as many friends as we can haul. What follows is two hours of bliss. We amble up and down the rows of trees, discussing which varieties of apple to pick and whether we have enough of this or that one, stopping every so often to sample Nature’s luscious wares. There is nothing like the succulent, tart-sweet savor of a Honeycrisp or Suncrisp apple picked straight off the tree, and nothing like the flavor of said apples when combined with a quarter-cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, some flakes of fresh ginger, and a few dabs of butter, all enclosed in crust and baked until the softened fruit bubbles out of the slits in the top. (Yes, I just gave you the basic recipe. You have no excuse not to go bake now.)

It’s calming to bake an apple pie. Baking anything is a terrific stress reliever, but there’s something special about pie. Peeling and slicing the apples, mixing them with the flour and cinnamon and sometimes a touch of vanilla or apple brandy, arranging them in the glass pie dish, drizzling the honey and scattering the ginger on them, then gently laying the top crust over the whole thing and crimping the edges…there’s something Zen about the textures and scents, the way the apples smell like sweet wine and the raw crust mushes like Play-dough under my fingers. It makes me feel like a kid again, only now my kitchen is my playroom, and my creation actually tastes good when I’m done. (Unlike Play-dough, which every little kid on earth has eaten at least once. Some mysteries are not for us to fathom.)

Apples and apple pie have numerous associations, some of which contradict each other. The apple is the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, the thing that tempts both Eve and Adam (with a little assist from the serpent) to break the rules of Paradise. (And then they each blame someone else for the choice they made, which to my mind is the real reason they got kicked out, but that’s a whole ’nother blog post.) On the other hand, apples and honey are traditional foods at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, eaten to symbolize the blessing and the hope of “a sweet year” to come. And America claims apple pie as a cultural icon of wholesomeness, right up there with motherhood.

Temptation, forbidden knowledge, new and happy beginnings, hearth and home…the apple symbolizes all of these. Yet in the end, it’s a piece of fruit. A fruit meant to nourish us, most deliciously when we add just the right things to it to make a pie. Serve it with ice cream, drizzle it with caramel, have an unadorned slice for breakfast (fruit’s healthy, right?), top it with sharp cheddar cheese if you’re old-fashioned. No matter how you slice it, apple pie is magic…and never more so than when late September rolls around.

A regular contributor to The Write Room, D. M. Pirrone writes mystery/suspense, horror, historical and general fiction. Her historical mystery, Shall We Not Revenge (Book 1 of the Hanley & Rivka Mysteries), was named a Notable Page Turner of 2014 by Shelf Unbound magazine. Book 2 in the series, For You Were Strangers, is forthcoming from Allium Press of Chicago. You can find more of D. M. Pirrone’s work at her personal blog, Word Nerd Notes ( and her website (

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Seasons By Cynthia B Ainsworthe



Sitting in the hotel’s lounge, dressed in my finest, waiting for him. Another afternoon to relive my youth, as I will gaze upon his. My mind brushes away my past years and dreams, and live only in the present. The future has lost its brilliance—what might be a new adventure around a worn corner, and only presents with the sameness of routine.

He enters in a well-tailored suit—a diversion from the autumn of my life. I look at his trim physique and smooth skin over firm muscles and high cheekbones. Eyes that are filled with hope as he lives his spring—a spring he must feel is eternal. Laugh lines have yet to make their mark. His quick, energized steps bring him closer as he reaches out his hand and a broad smile emerges. Oh, to be in that devil-may-care season that is his home.

I stand as he approaches and discreetly hand him the room cardkey that I secured an hour earlier. My stilettos click on the marble as we walk to the elevator. If Charles had lived, would this same situation be my refuge. I chuckle to myself at such a silly thought. Charles and I had been married for twenty-five years before that terrible car crash that put him into a never-ending coma. The hardest last gift from me to him was to give permission for cessation of life-support measures.

In the elevator, he holds my hand and smiles. I smile back, knowing that for a brief afternoon I will whisk away all the pain and loneliness that has become my existence. As prescribed by such an arrangement, he kisses me with passion—a passion that he has honed from many such assignations with others. He knows his part and plays it well.

He slips the card into the door-key slot. The familiar buzzer rings, and then opens the door. I enter first. Opening my purse, I retrieve crisp bills and place them on the dresser. The money is new and is as untainted as possible from the bank, as if this small detail will erase all seemliness from what is about to be. He takes no notice of the payment and proceeds to unzip my dress.

I shut my eyes as his lips caress mine in passion. It is Charles kissing me—not this young stallion marketing on his youth and the loneliness of an older woman. My husband whispers in my hungry ear that he loves me. My heart cries out, “Forgive me Charles. I never wanted to let you go. Be with me again, even if only briefly, through this young man.”

Afterwards, he lies next to me in a light slumber. I look at him and wonder if my body and lined face repulses him. Does my sagging jaw line remind him of his mother? As we make love, does his fantasies create a beautiful young lady to replace the older woman who paid for his attention? I have no idea why these questions come to my mind. They shouldn’t. He gives me time with Charles and that is what keeps me sane in this dark pool of grief.

I slip out of the bed, lean over and kiss his temple as I once did to Charles. He doesn’t open his eyes, merely smiles.

Having dressed, I quietly leave and look forward to another day in my autumn. I shudder to think of my winter. When winter comes, I fear I will no longer be able to taste the sweetness of spring.

© 2015 Cynthia B. Ainsworthe


Author Bio


Cynthia B. Ainsworthe is a multiple award-winning author. She started writing seriously in the autumn of her life after having raised a family. Her epic length novel, “Front Row Center”, earned the IPPY Award in romance. She has also gleaned the Excellence in Writing Award by It Matters Radio for the short story It Ain’t Fittin’, and shares the Reader’s Favorite Award with other authors for the horror anthology, “The Speed of Dark”, where her two short stories, When Midnight Comes and Characters, are featured. Ms. Ainsworthe has received many 5-star reviews for her novels. She has recently released book 2 in the Forbidden Series titled “Remember?” and is writing the third book in that series. Cynthia is also working with known Hollywood producer, screenwriter, and director, Scott C. Brown on adapting Front Row Center to screen. She is actively honing her screenwriting talent.

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The turning point of World War 2 by Jon Magee


I could not fail to notice that in the week that this item is being published Britain will be remembering the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. For us in Europe the war had begun in 1939, and the Battle of Britain was the turning point of the war as Adolf Hitler faced his first defeat.

As I reflect on this momentous time in history my own personal memories, whilst serving in the British Royal Air Force, go back to when I climbed onto the wing of the Spitfire and into the small cockpit. I was conscious not only of how small it was, but also of how difficult it was to see ahead. Its long straight nose, up tilted when the tail wheel was on the ground, would have made taxing difficult since it was not easy to see ahead. It would have been necessary to swing from side to side to look in front. The view at take-off would also have been restricted in the same way until travelling fast enough to lift the tail; only then would it be possible to see over the nose. To take the pilot’s seat and feel the thrill of sitting in one of the world’s most iconic cockpits was an experience beyond compare. However, for me it was not the real thing of facing the battle of the 2nd World War. It was thirty years later in 1975 as I served as a young airman attending to the maintenance of the aircraft on an RAF base in Wales. The vast majority of the aircraft there were Hunters, but this one solitary Spitfire gave me the opportunity of allowing my imagination to run freely, thinking of a bygone age. Trust me when I say that it was the most emotional, historical and exhilarating experience available in aviation.  The Merlin engine powered two of the greatest fighters of World War II, the Supermarine Spitfire and the North American P-51 Mustang, but for the average Brit, it was the Spitfire that would always be seen as the one most well remembered.  spitfire2 (1)

 Douglas Bader, is a name well remembered as one of the heroic pilots taking part in the Battle of Britain, and first flew a Super marine Spitfire in February, 1940. He wrote about it in his book, Fight for the Sky (1973).  He said that the Spitfire “had eight machine guns of .303 calibre each, mounted four in each wing. The guns were spaced one close to the fuselage, two mid-wings, one further out. The eight guns were normally synchronized to 250 yards. In other words the four in each wing were sighted so that the bullets from all eight converged at that distance, in front of the Spitfire. Experienced fighter pilots used to close the pattern to 200 yards. The successful pilots succeeded because they did not open fire until they were close to the target”.


The Second World War air campaign by the German Air Force occurred over several months in 1940. The UK suffered devastating aerial bombings as the Luftwaffe attempted to destroy Britain’s air defences. The RAF’s efforts prevented Hitler’s plans to invade Britain and were a crucial turning point in the war, marking Germany’s first major defeat. There were 348 British pilots that were killed during the campaign and they each need to be honoured, yet there were also numerous interesting tales that can be discovered happening on the ground, as a small nation with limited resources showed that it is still possible to face the might of a larger nation even when they seemed to be left on their own seeking to defend themselves and the principles of the needs of the future of democracy.

William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, was a notorious broadcaster of Nazi propaganda to the UK during World War II. His announcement ‘Germany calling, Germany calling’ was a familiar sound across the airwaves, introducing threats and misinformation that he broadcast from his Hamburg base. However, there was one occasion when the residents of the South of England knew without a shadow of doubt that Lord Haw Haw had made a tremendous mistake, as he announced that the Luftwaffe had completely destroyed Biggin Hill airodrome, though he would have felt confident he was making a true statement.  Among the various tricks used by the British at the time was focused on the nearby golf course where replica models of the Spitfire had been placed. As the bombers flew over they were sure that the golf course was the place they were on a mission for. The spitfires were clearly there for them to see, but they were merely false illusions not at the aerodrome but on the golf course.


My grandparents lived at Bigginhill in a home they affectionately called The White House. It was painted white and easily seen from the distance. My grandmother would often recall the days when they were notified that they were at risk, and needed to move house. The Luftwaffe was known to have been taking photos of the area, and there must be a reason for it. Gran was a determined character and saw no reason why she should leave home just because of a photographer. Eventually, in frustration the authorities agreed for her to stay, but on condition that they did not paint the house in any other colour nor change anything related to the external structure. Any change would have meant the Germans would have suspected that their plans had been found out. That spirit of standing firm was at the heart of the character of the people who faced the bombings regardless of the risk to their lives. It was noted that even the Royal family refused to move out of London, but stayed with the people, bringing to them comfort and encouragement.

There were those who would have wondered in later life how they managed to escape. Driving home one evening an air raid began and my parents could see the local people heading for the nearest air raid shelter. They knew what they ought to do, head for shelter, but something within them seemed to be saying “head for home, head for home”. They could not understand that inner feeling, but it was home they went for. The next morning they knew why home was best for them. The air raid shelter they should have gone for was completely destroyed. That would have been their last day if they had not followed the call for home.

Mum had volunteered to work with the London Ambulance service during this time. She was a mere 4 foot 10 inches in stature, and the commandeered removal Lorries that were used as makeshift ambulances were not the place for her, one might think. Being so small she must have scared the life out of others on the road who could not see the driver, but night after night the emergency services did their bit whilst the few in the air likewise did theirs. A small nation with limited resources, but everyone needed to do their bit in times of war and emergency even if it was a noncombatant role. In every age I guess it is still the same, it is only as everyone is prepared to work as a team putting in their everything that the whole of society can see the victory in life.

Author of “From Barren Rocks to Living Stones” & “Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey”
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Remembering Mom by Dellani Oakes

Mom and me September 14 2014

My mother was a woman’s libber before the term became popular. She was independent, self-assured and the most fearless person I know. She turned 96 on Monday. Her vision has faded, her hearing lessened, her mind is going. She’s been in a wheelchair for the last four years, due to a re-break of her hip that didn’t heal properly. To see her now, you’d never know that she used to drive around the country doing speeches about a small Appalachian settlement school in Kentucky. Back in the 40s, there were no interstate highways, no cellphones and no GPS. She was on her own, with only her map and her fantastic sense of direction to guide her.

Mom married very late in life. By society’s standards, she was an old maid—36 when she wed, 38 when she had my sister, 40 when she had me. She gave us a childhood that was full of exciting experiences, chock full of great books, educational trips and just plain fun.

By the time I was 9, we had lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas and Nebraska. Everywhere we lived, we visited spots of historical significance. When in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we visited The Old North Church, Paul Revere’s house, Longfellow House…. We drove up to the bridge at Lexington and Concord and saw the Cannonball House and the Minuteman statue. We made a trip up to Bar Harbor and rode a ferry across. We had our pictures drawn by a lady on the ferryboat. I look like I’m about to be shot. My sister’s is much better.

Every summer, we made a drive from our home in Nebraska, back to visit our cousins and grandmothers. Mom’s family lived in Ohio, my dad’s in Tennessee. Along the way, we visited friends or, once in awhile, spent the night in motels. Sometimes, we stopped in spots we’d read about in books: Hannibal, Missouri where we visited Mark Twain’s house. Also, one of Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s homes there.

I’ve gone on a lot about our trips, mainly because it shows a lot about how my mother thought and planned. She would study maps until she had them memorized—or so it seemed to me. She remained unflappable when we had the occasional flat tire or radiator overheated. It seemed we always had our car trouble in the best spots, where help arrived in the best possible way. When I traveled with my mother, I was never afraid. She always was so confident, so sure she would never get lost. Oh, we got turned around from time to time, but she would say, “I may not know where I am, but I know where I’m not.”

Looking back, that probably shouldn’t have been as comforting as it was. It’s hard to see my mother so diminished. The spark is still there, but with the dementia and the mini-strokes, it’s hard to find her. I was happy to see that she recognized me, after not seeing me for a year. She lives in Kansas, I live in Florida. I surprised her, arriving without any warning. I did tell her who I was, and she remembered me and my children, even had a spark when I mentioned my granddaughter.

Mom playing dress up with Audrey December 2012

My daughter laments she can’t see her grandmother and bring her daughter to visit, but I suggested that she not. Let the six year old have memories of her GiGi as she was the last time she saw her, not as the woman who might not remember her name. I also want my daughter and sons to remember her: my mother a vital, energetic, brilliant, fearless woman.

With such a strong mother, it is no wonder that Dellani Oakes is such a creative writer. You can find her work at

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The Fundamentals of Marketing


The Write Room Blog is a group of 30 disparate authors who write about a vast range of topics. I will also assume that a significant portion of our million plus visitors are also writers. This marketing blog post is for all of you.

Why writers? Because the majority of  writers I’ve met over the last 23 years (that’s how long I’ve been writing for  profit) have difficulty taking the concept of marketing and applying it to their book selling business. Consider the following, if you will (and, yes, the examples place me firmly in the cohort known as Baby Boomers)  …

Where does one go for overnight delivery in the U.S.? FedEx. What’s the real thing? Coke. Why is it a small world? IBM. Who comes to mind when I mention mufflers? Midas. And do you remember when jeans were called Levi’s?

You were able to answer the preceding questions because the companies mentioned knew how to do something many businesspeople never learn. They knew how to position themselves in your mind, to establish ownership of specific words or phrases, to be the first companies you thought of when you needed a product or service they provided.

Am I really talking about marketing here? Yes, but not in the way you might expect. You see, the common assumption is that marketing is the process of offering your products and ideas for trade. It’s not. Marketing is actually about the manipulation of perception. Specifically, it’s about manipulating the perception of your prospective customers, doing everything you can to capture and maintain a position in their minds that’s valuable or useful to you.The fundamental purpose of marketing is to get into the mind of the customer and stay there.

Marketing ensures that the answer to the question “Who you gonna call?” isn’t “Ghostbusters” but is, in fact, your company. Don’t misunderstand me: good products are important. You won’t maintain the position you want without them. But they aren’t the focus of marketing.

A case in point … When you want fast food, great value and fun for the kids, what restaurant invariably pops into your mind? McDonald’s, right? The company has bought that position in your mind with a constant barrage of advertising. They started out owning the word fast, then they went after the word value and the phrase fun for the kids. More recently, they ran ads which reminded people that McDonald’s is also fun for adults, purposely going after the words or phrases or positions in your mind which relate most closely to what McDonald’s does well. Why? These are the things they want you to call them for. Food isn’t the focus. McDonald’s doesn’t sell food that tastes like you’ve spent all afternoon labouring over it, so they invest huge amounts of money to program you to think about them only when you want a fast, inexpensive meal you and the kids will enjoy. Again, it’s the process called positioning.

When I needed most home repairs, I used to go to a store called McDiarmid’s. Why? I had more success getting the things I wanted at the price I wanted at McDiarmid’s than I did anywhere else. They owned the home repair spot in my mind. Well, McDiarmid’s is gone now, replaced by a new franchise. A franchise that figured people like myself would keep coming there out of habit. But that didn’t work for me. McDiarmid’s still owned the spot they were after. Who got my business? The company I go to when I need deck maintenance supplies: Home Hardware. They’ve successfully captured that position in my mind. It was enough to draw me in when McDiarmid’s sold their business. And the people who were here before any of the preceding companies: Fife’s Hardware? I miss them. The owners retired a few years ago, and the store closed. Everyone in Kenora (where I live) knew that when no one else had what you needed, Fife’s did. You’d pay a little more, but they’d have it.

Got the idea? Marketing is concerned with two related things: Getting into your mind and staying there. This post is designed to give you an introductory look at how this is done.


Be first in the mind of your customer.

There were cars offered in the marketplace which were better than those built by Henry Ford. He didn’t even build the first car. Ford was, however, the first to build automobiles on the assembly line and, as a direct result, was also the first to offer an affordable car to the public. For the rest of Henry Ford’s life everyone else had to chase him.

Understand the lesson provided by Ford’s example. I believe it’s the key to a successful marketing campaign. If you can’t be first, set up a new category you can be first in.

Rolls-Royce did this admirably. Henry Royce provided detailed engineering and unsurpassed quality, while Charles Rolls saw to it that the cars they made were big, fast and stylish. Their 1907 Silver Ghost was the culmination. It was a car so unlike any ever built—having such power, comfort and quality of manufacturing—that it firmly captured a spot in the minds of the public. Result? Not only did Rolls-Royce create a new category of car, they quickly became the standard for excellence in automobile manufacturing.

Interestingly enough, Rolls was never first in the overall marketplace. But, remember, marketing isn’t about being first in the marketplace (having the best sales or the biggest share). This goal may be part of your overall strategy, but it isn’t the primary function of marketing. Marketing is about being first in the mind of your customer. Rolls did that.

When I was growing up, people wanting to make a firm and decisive statement about their wealth and status bought a certain kind of car. They didn’t buy a Jaguar or a Lambourghini or a Porsche. Nor did they buy the most popular car from the most successful manufacturer in the marketplace. They bought a Rolls. Why? Because Rolls-Royce was the best that money could buy. In my mind it still is.


Do whatever it takes to maintain your captured position.

Which tastes better, Coke or Pepsi? More to the point: who cares? The colossal media wars that have occurred between Pepsi and Coke have had nothing at all to do with which product tasted better, or was better. Their many battles have simply been for a position in your mind. Pepsi wants to be first; Coke is.

I believe that if you comprehend this last point, then you understand marketing. Marketing is not a battle of products, it’s a battle of perceptions.


Own a word in the prospect’s mind.

So, how do the big guys and gals do it? How do they capture a position in your mind and then maintain it? One way, perhaps the most powerful of all marketing approaches, is to own a specific word in the prospect’s mind. Gillette owned the word razor. Pillsbury was dough. Betty Crocker was cakes. These companies were the brand names the people of my generation (baby boomers) grew up with, and it didn’t happen by accident.

The whole concept of brand names stems from what marketing is about. It’s about making certain that the customer thinks of you when they need the products or services you provide. Marketing is about positioning.

As I’ve illustrated, positioning is a powerful concept. But let’s delve a little deeper. Let’s take a look at the rise and fall of Bayer. I think it’s a fascinating example of just how powerful the concept of positioning is.

Bayer bottled acetylsalicylic acid (A.S.A) under the brand name of Aspirin. And because they were first in our minds with such a powerful and useful drug, they were wildly successful. In fact, they were so successful in their positioning efforts that Aspirin actually replaced the phrase acetylsalicylic acid and the abbreviation A.S.A. in our culture. Their company also created a phrase based on the bottle design, “The Bayer Cross.”

Ownership of the word Aspirin gave Bayer such domination in the market that no company was able to compete with them until the problem of Reyes Syndrome was discovered. What happened then illustrates the power of positioning even more clearly than Bayer’s incredible marketing success. The very thing that made Bayer successful—ownership of the word Aspirin in our minds—also led to their demise, in terms of market share. You see, at the same time people were linking the name Aspirin to the wonder drug, acetylsalicylic acid, they were also linking The Bayer Cross to the word Aspirin. Do you remember what happened? When Aspirin fell out of favour, so did Bayer.

An interesting follow-up note to all of this is that other drug companies seem to have learned from Bayer’s mistake. For example, we all know that Tylenol rose up to replace Aspirin in the marketplace. But do we know who makes Tylenol? No, we don’t! In fact, I actually had to go look on the label of my own bottle of the stuff to find out that Tylenol is bottled by McNeil.

I want to make sure you understand what I’ve been saying. The company who successfully imbedded the word Tylenol in our minds, thereby making sure that when we wanted acetaminophen we thought of Tylenol, also made equally sure that when we wanted Tylenol we didn’t think of their company.

I believe this marketing strategy was probably a wise choice. Do you remember the Tylenol poisonings? The brand isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, is it? But the problem didn’t directly affect the maker itself.


There can only be one.

Las Vegas is gambling. It owns that word. Want proof? How many of you think about going to Reno when you think about gambling?

Ask someone in their 50’s or 60’s to tell you who The King was. They won’t tell you it was Edward. The King was, and always will be, Elvis.

Who owns the word Camelot? As popular as the Kennedy administration was, I’d wager King Arthur still owns the deed to that particular plot of land.

Who’s The Duke? John Wayne. There’ll never be another.

Who owns the word Communism? It’s Russia, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter that communism has failed there: Russia still owns the word.

There can only be one company or product in first place in any particular market.


Your largest competitor will determine your strategy.

There are many reasons to believe that two companies (or people) can’t own the same word in your mind. Think about the implications of this!

Pepsi’s marketing strategy is determined by Coke. Burger King’s strategy is determined by McDonald’s. It’s a fact of business. Even smaller outfits like Pic-A-Pop or Wendy’s are bound by the fact that there can only be one company at the top. Why? A simple reason is that it’s difficult, and often financially impossible, to go head-to-head with whoever is before you in your particular market. The leverage just isn’t there. Instead, the underdog needs to go for an entirely different position in our minds. To do otherwise is a risky proposition. Watch the ads and the business stats. I think you’ll find this holds true.

Consider the implication this way: People don’t carry many options around in their minds. We’re programmed to make constant choices between two things: We move away from or toward; we do this or that; we choose right or wrong. None of us want to settle for second best. We’ll take our first choice whenever we can. So, in the long run, marketing tends to come down to what I’ve mentioned: finding a way to be first in the mind of your customer, then doing everything in your power to stay there.


Find a way to be first.

Let’s go back to the Coke-Pepsi example. Coke was invented only a few years before Pepsi, but customers have the perception that Coke is the old-timer, the big boy on the block. Coke also did a terrific job portraying the drinking of its product as an American pastime. Did Pepsi let this fact hamper their ambitions? No way. Pepsi eventually turned Coke’s apparent strength (it’s lifelong appeal to the older generation) into a weakness and became the choice of a new generation. It created The Pepsi Generation.

I’ll repeat that. Pepsi set itself up as an alternative to Coke by turning Coke’s major strength into a major weakness. In other words, they chose a marketing approach that exactly opposed Coke’s position in our minds, making the drinking of Coke a choice between the new and the old, forcing us to unconsciously place Pepsi in an equal or equivalent position in our minds. They split the market, created two categories, and forced the consumer to choose between the best of the old world and the best of the new world. They earned a spot in our minds where they were, indeed, first. How’s that for Contrarian thinking?

The Pepsi story proves there are many ways to be number one. The key to discovering one of these spots is to remember there are always different ways to look at things, different perspectives, different points on which to focus.

I’m reminded of a pattern I noticed in old gunfighter movies. The best gunfighters didn’t battle with their closest competitors. No, the good ones tolerated each other. They shared the marketplace, so to speak. They each fell into a niche where they were first, where they were the best. One was the fastest, another was the most accurate. There were one-gun men and two-gun men. There were those who preferred long rifles and those who used a six-shooter. Then there was Bowie. He used a knife, rather than a gun.

All of these men either stumbled into a field (or pursued one) where they were best, and in doing so set themselves up to be pursued by foolish upstarts looking to knock these so-called market leaders off their perch. As I mentioned, they each created their own category. They discovered ways to the top by carving out niches within the biggest marketplace, by finding an area where no one could compete with them, where they were the best, and where they were first in people’s minds. As is often the case, art imitates life.


Marketing is a process, not a solution.

When you’re actively trying to change a customer’s perception of you, your product, or the marketplace, you’re attempting to change his or her beliefs. This takes time. So often a business will opt for the quick fix to their growth problems—a series of sales, down-sizing, a new product line—only to find they’ve cut their own throat in the process, that instead of owning a spot in the customer’s mind, they’ve become indistinguishable from others in the marketplace.

 Think of marketing as educating the customer. You’ve got to teach people what’s unique and special about you and your product. You’ve got to show them why they should choose you in the first place, why they should return frequently, and maybe even why they should increase the size of their purchases. You’ve got to create a permanent position for yourself in the minds of the people who are your target market. It’s the only sure-fire approach to sustainable long-term growth, and it takes time.


 Don’t add unnecessary new product lines.

Adding a new product line without a lot of careful thought is a risky proposition. You may end up diluting your brand.

I used to go to Midas when I had muffler problems. I wonder why they thought I’d go to them for brakes? Someone else already owned that spot in my mind.

Another example of this foolishness is Pizza Hut. I thought they did a wonderful thing with their slogan Pizza Hut… And Nothing But. The phrase stuck in my mind, and it actually brought me back to them after many years of absence. Then they did something I couldn’t believe. They started running a series of ads introducing their newest product, wings. Ads, by the way, which also included the above slogan. What a waste of money! Not only did they not get the chicken wing spot in my mind, their credibility suffered.

Extending your line of products or services on the assumption that people will buy because it has your name on it is an idea which has proven to be expensive for many companies.

Be prepared to leave some things alone. No one’s going to believe you can be the best at everything. This is still the era of specialization, the age of delivering a specific product or service to the largest number of people. Giving up things is integral to that process. Note: It took me over 20 years to learn this lesson. And when I did, when I chose to specialize, the floodgates opened and customers beat their way to my door. My specialization? Ghostwriting. If you or someone you know requires a ghostwriter. I’m your guy. Writing the way it should it should be.

Take, for example, the appearance of the superstores (Big Box Stores). They were, and are, first when it comes to offering a good selection of quality products at the best price. They managed to achieve this position because they willingly gave up all the frills other businesses traditionally offered so they could dramatically reduce the price of their offerings to the customer. A lot of businesses have gone under learning there’s no way to directly compete with these stores. Why? Because a traditional business can’t give up what the superstores have given up. A business that has lost or is losing its market share to a superstore needs to understand that there’s no going back, that they’re going to have to establish a different category they can be first in.


Contrarian thinking can help.

No one sells more cottages claims a local realtor. If I wanted to go into competition with him, I’d seriously consider a statement like No one sells fewer cottages … but we sell every single one that’s listed with us. Do you see the reasoning? If the market you’re interested in is held by someone who specializes in selling fast cars, why not establish yourself as a dealer who sells slow cars? That’s right, slow cars—for the person who wants complete leisure and comfort, rather than speed. To effectively compete in a marketplace held by a big restaurant like McDonald’s, I should give serious consideration to slow-cooked, wholesome food (if not gourmet) served in an intimate and adult environment. It’s an offer that’s exactly the opposite of what McDonald’s does. I won’t get the customers to whom fast food is most important, but I’ll get the ones who don’t mind slow food, and to whom taste and atmosphere does matter. It’s a smaller share but it can be very profitable.

These examples illustrate a viable marketing approach that works by offering something the competition can’t do. It’s what the superstores I mentioned earlier did to small business. Think about it: The fast food place can’t offer the slow, painstaking preparation that is a must in gourmet cooking; the fast car dealer can’t switch to, or add, a line of slow cars without damaging his position; the realtor who sells a lot of cottages, definitely isn’t going to give each of his customers his individual attention—because the big guy can’t be small and personal.


Admit a negative, get a positive.

When overnight isn’t necessary … was a slogan tossed around by a national postal service in the U.S. that couldn’t compete in the arena of overnight document delivery. The company owned up to this negative but showed that it could compete effectively for two, three and four day deliveries. Very slick. I found myself giving them the positive, even though I knew exactly what was going on. You see, by admitting they’d justifiably lost a portion of their business to companies like FedEx, I was more inclined to believe their claim that they were still the place to go when overnight delivery wasn’t necessary. Cool.


Look for weakness.

It’s unfortunate, but when you’re the little guy, or you’re a business losing market share to someone’s brilliant idea, the right marketing choice has to be chipping away at the opposition until you find a weakness. Those who stop chipping just don’t survive. The refusal to do the difficult and make the Contrarian choice, means that they have no hope of uncovering the rare weakness all companies exhibit from time to time. As a result, they aren’t positioned for that one master stroke, that chance to do the unexpected, to be bold, to be daring, to be a winner.


Hang in there.

In every situation there’s going to be a choice open to you which will produce more substantial results than anything else. Develop the patience and the pertinacity to look for that option, the objectivity to recognize it and, finally, the courage to boldly capitalize on the thing. Marketing is no exception.

Choose a position you want to occupy in your customer’s mind, and when you somehow manage to earn that place, do whatever it takes to keep it. Expect to have your position constantly challenged. Be prepared for it. You should also expect that you and your employees will make mistakes. Be willing to allow this to happen, to let isolated failures go unpunished. Sustained creativity and growth can’t happen when people are afraid to make mistakes. Unless you’re willing to accept your mistakes, fix them and continue on, you’re in trouble. Persevere.


Think of marketing as artistic communication.

Marketing isn’t exact. How can it be? You’re trying to access and affect the beliefs of a wide variety of individuals. In the world of marketing the most insane ideas will often work, while supposedly fool-proof campaigns crash and burn. How else can you possibly explain the creation of the Pet Rock fad? Get creative. And have some fun communicating with your prospective customers.



Most businesses tend to advertise when they have the money, rather than when they should. It’s a truism; Advertising is needed most when things aren’t going well. If you’re looking to launch a marketing program of any kind, please remember that successful marketing requires consistent advertising over long periods of time. It’s the only way to get into a prospect’s mind and stay there.

I don’t mean to imply you must advertise every day, or every week. Timing, after all, is important. For example, a successful trend usually occurs when the supply never quite exceeds the demand. Consider your favourite author. Would you purchase books written by he or she if new ones appeared (and were advertised) each week? Probably not. It’s the fact a new book by this author comes out only rarely that keeps you interested, that keeps you buying. Successful impresarios and businesspeople have made use of this knowledge for years. Just think of the phrases for a limited time only or Christmas comes but once a year. They’re classic examples of trend building.


Have a monthly marketing budget.

You wouldn’t go wrong by regularly giving the public answers to the questions: “What do you do? When do you do it?” and “How do you do it?” But the simplest marketing rule to remember is that you need money to get into a mind, and you need money to stay in the mind once you get there. Successful marketing means spending lots of money. Plan for it.



Do whatever it takes to learn about, understand and put into practice the concept of positioning. I’ll even give you a reason for doing it: What word, words, or positions do you occupy in the minds of the people you work with? Can you answer the question? If not, you now have your reason for learning to use positioning. Furthermore, when you do identify the position or positions you now occupy in the minds of these people, are these perceptions helping your company to be more profitable? Are they indicative of relationships you can count on in the future? Can they be sustained? If not, what are you going to do about it?

Marketing is the answer, isn’t it? Even if you have to capture the mind-positions you want one person at a time. Think of how great it would be to secure ownership of words like good friend, honest, trustworthy, loyal, reliable, valuable, kind, cheerful, positive or successful.

What’s the one thing you’d like to have people recognize you for, and what are you going to do to make sure that when they think of that specific word or phrase your name pops into their heads? Marketing is the answer.

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Imagination is a wonderful Thing!


Have you ever thought where we would be if we didn’t have an imagination?

We’d be lost and hungry, for a start.

Let me explain.

Imagination is the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight, hearing, or other senses. It is a mental process, which is not visible to others. Imagination makes use of relevant knowledge and previous learning to solve problems

This is why I say that without an imagination we would all be lost and hungry. Without an imagination, nobody would be able to translate an abstract concept like a road map into the reality of the roads. The same applies to recipes. Imagination is what enables a person to turn a bunch of words into a wonderful dish.

In the business world, trainers emphasize ‘thinking outside the box’ and ‘lateral thinking’ in problem solving. What do they mean by that? Simply put, they might as well have told their trainees to ‘use your imagination.’

In today’s world, we want to be visually entertained. We watch movies, TV series, we play computer games etc. These are the products of somebody else’s imagination. Our own mind’s eye becomes lazy to the point of not being able to ‘see’ without ‘seeing’. We forget how to think in the abstract. We rely on imagination borrowed from somebody else.

Everybody doesn’t have to be a visual artist or an author, but our imagination is what separates us from the animal kingdom. No invention would have been possible with the imagination of the inventor. Every painting and sculpture started with an idea in the imagination of the artist. Bridges, highrise buildings, airplanes, trains and spaceships, the common light bulb, the telephone, television sets, you name it, they all started as an idea formed in somebody’s head by his/her imagination.

If the imagination becomes the privilege of the few the human race will be left so much poorer. Each person should strive to develop all the faculties available to him or her. Imagination incorporates learning, previous experiences and personality to come up with solutions in a new and original forms. With a blunted imagination, this process becomes limited to the point of being useless.

One way to develop one’s inner eye is by reading. By reading a book as opposed to watching a movie based on that book, one creates mental images for oneself from the abstract words the author used to tell the story. One enters the world the author created by visualizing it. But when we watch what another person have created, our own imagination shrivels with disuse.

Read a book!

Maggie Tideswell is the author of passionate paranormal romance novels. She lived in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband Gareth and their three cats.  She has two books published, Dark Moon (2011) and Moragh, Holly’s Ghost (2013) and has just launched her new five book series Bridesmaids, Weddings & Honeymoons. Book 1, The Run-Away Couple, is available on Amazon. Book 2, He’s Married will be released next month.

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Of Labor and Work – pieces from the members of The Write Room Blog

I thought it might be interesting to ask our team to reflect on the world of labor and work, and received some wonderful responses. (Ken Weene)




Some ideas stick in a person’s mind and change the individual’s weltanschauung (worldview). For me, one such idea presented itself in a “social philosophy” course sophomore year of college. Two years earlier (1958), Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition had leapt onto the political theory stage. It was, according to the professor, a must read. She wrote of the social realm and the political. Her book made me think and reflect. Perhaps no distinction she offered hit me more forcefully than that between labor and work.

To paraphrase: Labor is that which we must do to earn our bread, to make our necessary contribution to the physical needs of others and by doing so to meet our own. Work, on the other hand, had lasting value; it was the creation of substance and meaning. Of course, some people were able to unify the two things, to earn their way by writing poetry, sculpting, perhaps by organizing a community, or providing political leadership. Most of us, however, must labor in order to have the freedom to work. If there was one person who personified that disconnect, it was another political thinker, Eric Hoffer, who wrote The True Believer while working as a longshoreman. (Yes, his book was also recommended.)

So what has that to do with me and with The Write Room Blog?

The effort is the same: my fingers tap at the same keyboard; my eyes strain at the same screen; my time passes with the same finality. BUT! What about within my head?  That is where the difference lies.

Watch my brain at work. The neurons flash with pride. Another sentence has been crafted for that so valued imagined reader. I see her/him smile in recognition of an idea, a symbol, perhaps a unique turn or phrase. “Ah, it succeeds,” I think, and it is my work.

Now consider my brain at labor. “This will do,” is the thought. The image is not of a reader but a looker, a glancer. “That will catch attention,” I say to myself as I click “send” or “post”. “Arg, there’s so much marketing to do”: tweet after tweet, comment after comment, request after request. I can imagine myself as longshoreman, lifting bales; that they are filled with letters instead of cotton — no, not even words — makes those bales no less heavy to the mind. I strain beneath the weight. Oh, to get back to my novel, to that poem, to that short story or essay.

A postscript for those who appreciate irony: The final exam, not a question about Arendt or Hoffer. I ignored the questions and wrote about them anyway. Received an A. I guess that was because I really worked at it.


Besides novels, short fiction and poetry, Ken Weene occasionally decides to consider serious issues. You can learn more about him and his writing at




Work … It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I lost count at 50 different jobs. And this during a time when people stayed with one corporation for most of their lives. But not me. I’ve been a cleaner, construction worker, cook, factory worker, farm hand, financial products broker, manager, mechanic,  personal trainer, private detective, public speaker, social worker, tutor, vacuum cleaner salesman, waiter, weather man and, of course, writer—just to name a few. Why so many? Well, it’s like this … I’m a problem solver, and since business is all about solving problems it turns out I can work virtually anywhere. This discovered, when I became bored or unchallenged or was put into management (which I’d rather not do), I would give my notice and go in search of something new. It worked for me for a long time.

One day, I realized I had figured out a model for running my own business. So I tried it. The experiment worked fairly well, but not enough to give the kind of money and freedom I wanted. Back to the drawing board. The end result was working for a multinational company that let me run my position as a separate but related business. I did very well. But it wasn’t where I now knew I wanted to be … having a writing business that supported me in the style I had dreamed of.

So, I had a business system, and I could write. I put the two together to see what would happen. The business model didn’t really work for writing, but I was hooked on the work. What to do? I spent many years chasing after that fabled bestseller that was supposed to launch my career. While I never wrote a book that lost money, neither did I write a bestseller.

Back to the drawing board … The problem I discovered with my model is that it requires other people to work the system for me. Hard to do when you’re a writer. More years passed, and I managed to become an expert in the business of producing deliverables like books, manuscripts, reviews, short stories and so on.

“How do I hire people to do that for me?” I asked? “Become a traditional publisher,” came the answer. That didn’t work either, because the writers didn’t want to use my system. No, I needed actual employees.

By sheer luck, my next job was as a ghostwriter. A very busy ghostwriter. I don’t know when it finally clicked (when I had 20 clients all at the same time, I think), but I said to myself: “Self, why don’t you hire some ghostwriters to work for you?” All I would need to do is to manage the funneling of clients and the rest could become automated. I could even use the model to hire a pen of copywriters, something new I was trying.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Clayton Clifford Bye has written 11 books and at least as many ghostwrites. He also writes short stories, poetry, occasional reviews and publishes the work of others when he finds a property he likes. Clayton now spends most of his time ghostwriting. You can find his website at, his store at




It’s 1979. We’re in a recession and feeling it the hardest in our country home. My six kids are old enough that I can leave them home alone. At least that’s what I tell myself. I find a job as a morning prep person and night dinner cook in the small town’s favorite Italian restaurant.

I’m not a morning person. The rooster next door crows at 6:30 AM, waking the neighborhood dogs. That’s my alarm clock. Rousing the kids who sleep through the racket, I get them moving, dressed and breakfasted as I gulp down my third cup of coffee. They all pile into the local school bus and go off to their various schools.

I get to work at 8:30 AM and begin making mountains of meatballs as ‘Aunt Mary,’ the mother of the restaurant’s owner, stirs a huge cauldron of red sauce and rolls out sheets of pasta dough. Hours later we’ve made hundreds of homemade ravioli and rolled so many meatballs that my hands are cramping. It’s 2:30 PM. I leave to get home in time for the 3:30 PM bus and onslaught of starving kids rushing through the front door. They head for the fridge and snacks laid out on a table, while telling me all about their day at the same time. I’ve learned to listen to all of them at once, a gift that may come in handy one day — or not.

It’s Friday, one of the three or four nights that I work as a cook at the restaurant. Homework gets done or so they tell me, chores when I can catch them, pets cared for, and last night’s tuna casserole set out for dinner. I’m off to work again at 5 PM. The summer heat registers 95° in the kitchen of the restaurant and it feels like 110° or more. I’m dressed in short shorts, tank top and flip flop sandals like the other cooks. Massive vats of boiling water for pasta and sauce simmer as the Friers and range emanate even more heat. God is good. Tonight I get to work the salad bar and scrub huge pots and pans.

The bartender/owner brings me a mandolin to slice the salad veggies. I prefer a knife but he’s the boss. Within minutes, I manage to slice off the tips of three fingers on my left hand – not completely off but hanging and bleeding all over the wood cutting board and vegetables. The grill cook rushes to get our boss, Donnie, and after appraising the situation, he leaves and returns with a roll of black electrical tape. Whatever works, I think, and struggle to carefully place the tips of my fingers back on and tape them with my right hand. The pain is fierce.

Donnie pops in to tell me to switch places with the Gopher cook so I don’t bleed on the food. I realize then that he’s not sending me home. The dinner rush hits and I’m soon busy working the microwaves, getting food out of the huge walk-in, and setting up plates. That’s the job of a gopher.

Wild storms strike the area, breaking the heat wave and slowing business. Donnie sticks his head into the kitchen. “It slowing down, Micki. You can go home now.” The man is all heart. I grab my purse, say goodbye to the cooks and dash out the back of the kitchen to where my car is parked. The storms have slowed to a few rumbles and flashes of ground lightning as the rain tapers off to a fine drizzle.

Home looks really good — a deception of course. I walk in to find eight-year-old Nicole crying on the couch. The heat made her sick and triggered a migraine. “I told you girls not to let her out in the sun,” I snapped at her two younger sisters.

“She got away from us,” Noelle says, looking upset.

But 15-year-old Kelly has a bigger problem, forecast by wracking sobs. She’s holding Puff, my oldest daughter, Kim’s, white rabbit;, he doesn’t too healthy.

“It’s my entire fault,” Kelly sniffles.” I left him outside in the storm. Kim is going to kill me.”

I figure the poor little guy was either traumatized or struck by lightning. He begins screening, which rabbit’s do before dying. I try pouring whiskey down his throat and then warm tea but he lets out a final shriek and dies in my arms. 16-year-old Dante suggests laying him out on a table in the basement until we can bury him the next day. Kim comes home from her date and that scene isn’t pleasant. She stomps up to her room and slams the door. Mike ambles in a little later on and we all sit on the long red velvet sectional couch watching TV until my husband walks in. The recession makes it necessary for him to work five hours away in New Jersey and come home only on weekends.

We are a sorry lot that greets him with our tales of woe. First thing he does is rip off the black tape on my fingers, removing the tips that I had secured so well with the tape. I refuse to scream from the pain as he pours salt on the wounds but tell myself that it’s good that I won’t have fingerprints left on those fingers when I strangle him in his sleep. I sip on some scotch and water — not a very good year — to ease the pain and tension from this laboriously horrible day.

I get to sleep in tomorrow and don’t work Monday, which is Labor Day. The next day I can collect my paycheck. At a $1.25 an hour comes to about $40 a week. Reagan’s trickle-down economy has not yet reached the tiny town of Williamsport Pennsylvania – or me.


Micki Peluso, author of the award winning memoir, . . .And the Whippoorwill Sang, writes slice of life , humor, short multi-genre fiction and commentary. Her collections of short stories, “Don’t Puck the Duck’ will be published in 2015.



LABORS OF LOVE By Nancy Cole Silverman

I have been hunkered down – like a World War I foot soldier in a foxhole – putting the last edits together on the final draft of my next manuscript due to my publisher the end of the month.  I write this very tongue and cheek, because I know a little about fox holes and World War 1 soldiers. My Great Uncle Henry was a member of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders out of Canada, and while I’m hardly fit to compare myself to my great uncle, he and I do share a similar fate. He was a writer, and so am I. And it is from that shared and fated talent from wince I have my understanding of history and a healthy appreciation of the craft.

Like many authors I waited until after I’d completed the final version of my work in progress, and sent it off to my publisher before I began cleaning out my files and cluttered drawers. My office was a mess. My desk piled high with unanswered mail, stale coffee, and littered with scraps of paper and illegible notes. It was then that I landed upon a package of old, onion-skinned, carbon copied news stories my aunt had transcribed as a girl on her Underwood typewriter. They were stuffed in the back of a drawer and I’d nearly forgotten about them. She had given them to me for safe keeping.  I hadn’t looked at them in years and scarcely remembered the promise I’d made to do something with them – in this lifetime.

Let me start by saying, my Uncle Henry was a member of the Scots-Canadian Royal Highlanders.  His unit, the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, were part of the Allied Expeditionary Forces from 1914 – 1918, during what was then called the Great War.  Often referred to as the “Ladies from Hell,” the 72nd was known for their Mackenzie tartan kilts, their bayonets, their bagpipes, and the action they saw while stationed in France where most of the Great War was fought.

My great uncle was also a war correspondent, and throughout the war sent home a series of missives, he titled, Little Memories, about his experiences.  However, the stories Childs chose to tell in his columns from the front, were not those of brutal destruction and bloody battle scenes, but more personal moments.  Moments when he crouches nervously with his comrades in a foxhole before “going over the top,” or where he sat alone, quietly on a hillside and unearthed a small doll while viewing the ravages of the village below.

Writers write. So I grabbed these letters and assembled them, as best I could, for a self-publishing in time for Veterans Day.  I’ll release them then.  Until then I labor, like all writers.  Hammering away at my next work, certainly under better conditions than those my great uncle wrote, but like him, it’s a labor of love, pulling ideas from the world around me, no matter how ugly or difficult, and trying to find the humanity of it all.


Nancy Cole Silverman writes the Carol Childs Mysteries.  After working in news and talk radio for nearly twenty-five years, Silverman retired to write fictional stories similar to those that took place not only the air, but behind the mic as well.  Her first book in the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014.  Her newest book, Beyond a Doubt, was released in July and the third of her series, Without a Doubt, is expected out next year.  For more information about Nancy and her work, please visit her website:


061107-N-2659P-030 Seaman Mark Andaya prepares fresh rolls for the evening meal in the aft galley of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) on Nov. 7, 2006.  Andaya is a U.S. Navy culinary specialist aboard the Stennis, which is currently the flagship for Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3.  DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul J. Perkins, U.S. Navy.  (Released)

Seaman Mark Andaya prepares fresh rolls for the evening meal in the aft galley of the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) on Nov. 7, 2006. Andaya is a U.S. Navy culinary specialist aboard the Stennis, which is currently the flagship for Commander, Carrier Strike Group 3. DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul J. Perkins, U.S. Navy. (Released)

PAPA ON A MISSION by Sal Buttaci

I believe my father was on a mission to do all he could to interest me in acquiring a college education. A former seminarian in Sicily, he had studied Latin and Classical Literature to which he attributed his intense love of learning. If he‘d had the power, he would’ve passed on those genes to me. Instead, in the pocket of my jeans I had no room for college aspirations. I would remind Papa that he never followed through with his own future plans of becoming a priest, so why not let me live my own life. He would wink and remind me in turn that it was quite fortunate for me and my siblings that he had opted instead for a wife.

At fifteen I joined the Police Athletic League because Papa wanted me to learn how to protect myself from the bullies who literally looked down on me for being so short.

That kind of abuse particularly bothered him because he too was short, but unlike me he never came home from school crying over a few bruises. He was a scrappy kid who grew into a scrappy guy with enough self-confidence to go around.

He wanted me to learn how to box, to show the bullies that being short did not mean being weak. But what he did not count on was I’d come to love the sport so much I wanted to jab my way into being professional one day.

“What about college?” he asked, interrupting my report of the evening’s match.

“I don’t want college, Pa. I want to fight in the ring.”

Papa decided to talk to the P.A.L. police captain about sending me into that ring I loved so much but to box with a fellow half a foot taller than I who had an arm’s reach long enough to have me swinging at air like a puppet on a short string. Needless to mention, but I’ll mention anyway: he won; I lost. And boxing became an event to watch safely on TV.

The following year I got a summer job as a baker’s apprentice at the Central Bakery in Union City, New Jersey. Papa had been a night-shift baker years before and following in his floury footsteps seemed a good idea. One day I reached up, lifted the oven door, slid the peel inside to retrieve a hot pan of baked cookies, and my asbestos gloves fell off. I reached up with both naked hands to catch the falling pan. They swelled into oversized mitts which I waved while screaming loud enough to summon the bakery boss. “Rub some butter on your hands and get back to work,” he said. I did neither.

“You’re not meant to be a laborer. Not tough enough,” Papa said. “Not like me. I helped build the Queens Midtown Tunnel with all them other immigrants. We made America what it is today. You? Queens, New York, would still be waiting.”

“My gloves fell off, Pa. The pan was hot. I didn’t want to drop it and ruin the cookies.”

Papa laughed. “Think about college. Let us workers take up the hammer and wrench. You pick up the pencil and paper. Hit the school books.”

Papa was right. Laborers were a special hard-working breed who deserved more respect than a once-a-year Labor’s Day. He believed in labor unions to protect workers from those who historically mistreated them. Still, he wanted us to go to college. “Two things nobody can steal from you,” he’d say more than once, “your name and your education.”

Over fifty years later I thank Papa for his persistence.


Sal Buttaci is the author of two flash-fiction collections Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts, both published by All Things That Matter Press and available at

His book A Family of Sicilians… which critics called “the best book written about Sicilians” is available at
He lives in West Virginia with Sharon the love of his life.




Thomas sat in the back of his car, studying the plans drawn up for the building he was involved with. His daughter, Violet, was driving. It was not unusual that he would ask her to drive in order that he could make the best use of his time driving from one meeting to another. What was unusual was the revelation of a past that Thomas never spoke of before. It was just one sentence, but that sentence, along with the tone and the expression of sadness said so much to his daughter. As such, it was a day that would stand out for her for the rest of her life. She recalled driving past an establishment hidden to the outside world by an extremely large wall. As they passed, so Thomas looked up from his paper work and said “It was behind that wall that I spent the worst days of my life”. This was the only time Violet could recall her father speaking of his childhood.

Thomas, born in the British Victorian era, had a poor start to life. His father died tragically in an accident at work. With no one able to bring money into the house they knew the reality of poverty that few in the western world today could really comprehend. He was one of three boys and two sisters, and they and their mother were to begin life in the Work House, as it was known. Such were the harshness of the conditions they lived in, that the mother of Thomas was to soon pass away as well. In the wisdom of the authorities of the day, the brothers were to be separated from the two girls and were never to be told that their two sisters also died as children. At one point there was a thought that he was to be rescued from this harshness by one claiming to be a relative. However, they claimed him as one who, they thought, would be cheap labour in their business, and hard tough work it was too. These are not the tales of fiction, for Thomas was my grandfather and his daughter, Violet, was my own mother. However, though it was too painful for Thomas to say much more, clearly the tales of Charles Dickens may have been far closer to the truth than we might realise.

The novels of Charles Dickens, the most popular author of the Victorian era, reveal an intense concern about the vulnerability of children. When Dickens was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debt and he was sent to work in a blacking factory, an incident that haunted him his whole life. His novels are full of neglected, exploited, or abused children: the orphaned Oliver Twist, the crippled Tiny Tim, the stunted Smike, and doomed tykes like Paul Dombey and Little Nell. Dickens was galvanized by revelations of real-life horrors facing the poor. Oliver Twist (1837) was written in response to the draconian New Poor Law of 1834, which had been inspired by the theories of utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. This law relegated the needy to prison-like institutions called workhouses, splitting up families and subjecting them to repugnant living conditions and hard labour.

As we consider the theme of labour and workers, two thoughts come to my mind. The first is a sense of gratitude that the Work House has been relegated to history and current laws address the need for workers who may be at risk of injury or death. Thankful also that following the 2nd world war a health system was brought into place to ensure no one need say they could not see a Doctor due to lack of finance, or being too high a risk for insurance companies to consider them. However, that gratitude must also be tempered with the need to always be vigilant, looking for other ways to be found to support those who are most vulnerable in society


Baptist minister Jon Magee’s writing reflects a lifetime spent living throughout the world and dealing with the vagaries of historical events. You can find his work at

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