About family …

What makes a family?  Our group blog begins with a poem about a man and his wife sharing quality time on an autumn afternoon. And then there are children. The next two pieces are true stories that will make you smile, if not laugh out loud. And if you’re a parent of small children, let this encourage you. You might be pulling your hair out right but someday you’ll look back and laugh.

The next contribution takes a look at parents and their feet of clay from the (now grown-up) child’s perspective. Then, on a more serious note, a man whose family moved all over the world reflects upon what family truly means.  Our last contribution is a movie lover’s praise for her favorite cinematic dysfunctional families—and for unconditional love. After all, isn’t that family at its best?

Rowan tree. Perthshire.

AT THE MARKET by Clayton Bye
The north wind is back
To cleanse both mind and soul
As a far away sun
Paints a pastel sky.

Elk sticks thicken breath,
A rich welcome to friends
Beneath a yellow tent
Of country wonders.

Pulled pork sandwiches,
Corn-wrapped parking meters,
Bright orange Rowan trees–
Make a pleasant lunch.

My heavy pumpkin
Offsets white and purple
That frost has left untouched,
Petunias in air.

Seagulls overhead,
No boats on the water…
Quick kisses and a smile
To end our summer.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009


Clayton Bye is a writer, editor, and publisher, and the author of poetry, essays, short stories and novels. He now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Learn more at http://www.claytonbye.com and http://shop.claytonbye.com


Family Matters by Dellani Oakes


You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. We’ve heard that often enough. I guess I’m fortunate. With very few exceptions, my family members are people I’d associate with even if we weren’t kin. They are wonderful, funny, intelligent people who make me laugh and feel good. We may go years, if not decades, without seeing one another, but we always have a great time when we get together.


The importance of strong family ties, is something my husband and I have tried to instill in our children. For the most part, I think we’ve been successful, though our children’s logic might have skewed our meaning somewhat…


When my oldest son was in third grade, he was more the size of a first grader. My daughter, two years older, wasn’t large either, but feisty and very protective. One day on the playground, a bully decided to assert himself by picking on my son. He accosted him on the playground, pushing him around. Before my son could move to protect himself, the bully pushed him again, knocking him down.


Suddenly, a banshee like scream grew louder and a little, brown haired missile shot across the playground. She tackled the bully, sending him face first into the dirt. She then proceeded to hit him, screaming, “No one beats up on my little brother but me!”


The assistant principal, who had witnessed it all, called me—laughing. “I’ve got your daughter here in my office.” He explained and added, “She’s mostly sorry.”


“Mostly sorry?” I asked, puzzled.


“Yeah, she’s not sorry she beat him up, she’s sorry she got caught.”


The assistant principal told me later, “She hit him with a flying tackle. Clipped him right in the knees. It was the prettiest take down I’ve ever seen.”


By some miracle (and the fact that the assistant principal and principal both liked my daughter) she wasn’t suspended for fighting, though the bully was. We had a talk about how that wasn’t the way to handle the bully, which made no impression whatsoever. She swore if it happened again, she’d do exactly the same thing. That was her brother and no one was going to smack him around—except her. She is still fiercely protective of all her brothers, though she’s the first one to give them hell if she thinks they deserve it. No, you can’t choose family, but given the opportunity, I surely would choose mine.


Dellani Oakes may not be a native, but she considers herself Floridian, and her writing reflects that. She’s written everything from historical romance, set in St. Augustine in 1739, to contemporary romantic suspense set in and around Daytona Beach. She enjoys writing, not only about family, but on a variety of other subjects as well. You can find more from Dallani at www.dellanioakes.wordpress.com and on Amazonhttp://tinyurl.com/kwt3ne9




A Family Portrait by Micki Peluso


I smiled to myself when they told me about their plans. As a mother I believe even grown children should learn by experience. They kept talking, and I had to hang up the phone before spasms of laughter overtook me. My two daughters thought that taking all of their children to a professional photographer would make wonderful presents for the grandparents. They thought it would be easy. Ideas are always best in their infancy.


On the hottest December day in decades, the children were dressed in their winter finery, and off we drove to the Mall. Kelly is blessed with three boys, a good-natured five-year-old, a tyrannical terrible two-year-old, and a one-year-old with attitude. All three were all sick with low-grade temperatures and noses running like Niagara Falls. Endless nose-wiping with tissues on gentle skin resulted in red faces and grumpy dispositions. Makeup partially solved that problem.


Nicole, has a nine-year-old, Nicky, already protesting the humiliation of posing with his “baby” cousins, and a daughter, Bailey Rose who, at four, believes that one cannot be too rich or too beautifully dressed. Local clothing stores know her by name.
The photograph studio is seasonally crowded, with tykes of assorted ages running amok and babies wailing—not my choice for a fun day. The temperature, and parents’ tempers, keeps rising as appointments run behind. One-year-old TJ takes a power nap, while his two-year-old brother, Brandon, makes several escape attempts, one almost successful. At long last, my family is called for their shoot. Nicky, still disgruntled, is itchy from his woolen Christmas suit and has broken out in livid hives. He announces that he may throw up. His sister Bailey, the ‘Calvin Klein’ of the four-year-old set, insists that the tights she’s wearing are certainly not the ones she chose with her outfit and begins to remove them, much to her brother’s chagrin and Nicole’s horror.


The wannabe Ansel Adams, a smile permanently pasted on her face, manages to get all five children lined up. Brandon is sitting in the sleigh as the session begins. For reasons known only to her, the photograher decides this will not work and tries to remove him from the sleigh.


Did I mention Brandon has a bit of a temper?  He screams so loudly that the security guards rush in like Marines on a mission. TJ begins to suck his thumb, a habit he’s never exhibited before, and Christopher, his older brother, slinks to the floor in an effort to appear invisible. Nicky tries to pretend that he doesn’t belong with this family. Bailey has her hand on her hip, a glint in her eye, and one foot pushed forward—never a good sign. Now the future photo genius snaps the shot!


The photographer is determined to complete her job. She lines everyone up again for some final takes. It seems to be going well, until she snaps the picture at the precise moment Brandon, who now refuses to sit in the sleigh on principle, catapults backward off the platform. There are more blood-curdling screams, but he’s unhurt since he is a very tough
little boy.


By now the other parents are quietly moving away from my family, some actually leaving the store. The photographer makes one last attempt to catch the children on film. She is, if nothing else, courageous. All the kids are in place at last. It is a bit much to hope for smiles from them, so she clicks away at the exact moment Brandon once more falls backward off the platform. The shoot is over.


My daughters are not happy with the shots but I find them spectacular. TJ has a startled ‘Oh’ on his mouth, and it may take a while for him to recover from this experience. Christopher has a perpetual smile on his face, but it is rumored that he believes he was switched at birth. Nicky looks disgusted by the entire event, and Bailey is asking for a reshoot. All that can be seen of Brandon is his two legs sticking straight up—perhaps the best shot.


My daughters asked how I ever photographed all six of my kids.


“Are you crazy”?  I said. “I never took all of you out at once, except to church, until you went to school.”


Some things must be learned, not taught. Meanwhile my favorite picture with all the kids is a conversation piece, especially the kid showing only two legs.


Micki Peluso, author of the award-wining memoir . . . And the Whippoorwill Sang, is a journalist, humorist and writer of short fiction and slice of life stories, fiction and essays. ‘The Cat Who Wanted a Dog ‘ a children and YA story is about to be released, followed soon by her collection of short stories, called, ‘Don’t Pluck the Duck.’ See more from Micki at http://www.mallie1025.blogspot.com/






The Downfall of Diabolical Geniuses (aka My Parents) by Cody Wagner


If my parents wanted to rule the world, it would have happened. And you’d have no idea they were doing it. They wove a tapestry of sneakiness.  Case in Point:
Back in the 90s, there was no texting, no iphone; kids talked on the phone, landlines with cords. My family had one phone and five kids. Those are terrible odds. We fought over phone usage like crazy. Every second of second of every evening, someone was whining
about someone else hogging the phone.


So what did my parents do? Well, they could have sat us down and explained the rules. Or set up schedules of who could use the phone and when. Did they do any of that? Nope.


Instead, Dad installed a secret switch–at the back of their closet– that shutoff the phone.


I’m not kidding.  The phone suddenly and mysteriously started going out at 6:00PM every night.


The five of us threw absolute FITS. But what could Mom do about it? “It’s the phone company,” she’d say, shrugging. “I can’t do anything about it.”


And that was that.


At this point, you might be asking yourself: So what happened if a phone emergency arose?




Mom would say, “Oh sometimes the lines get messed up. They feed into the walls just outside my bedroom. If I go mess with them, they may work.”


She’d disappear into the bedroom, shut her door, and we’d hear banging on the walls. After a few minutes, the door would open and she’d emerge, wiping sweat off her brow. “OK see if that works. If not, there’s nothing we can do.”


Lo and behold, the phone would work again! We thought Mom was an electrical genius. Little did we know she was a diabolical genius.


However, all my parents’ “geniusing” backfired my sophomore year in college. They had bought me a new car. By “new,” I mean a 10 year old piece of crap. But it was my piece of crap and I loved it.


My best friend at the time, David, lived out in the country. His house was off a long caliche road. For all you non-Texans who have never heard of caliche, it’s a firmly packed dirt road, not paved but the gravel is so firm, it’s the next best thing.


For some reason, my mom had an insanely irrational fear of caliche. Maybe she had nightmares about a caliche road hiding in her closet. Or perhaps she was molested by a caliche road. Either way, I was expressly forbidden from ever ever ever driving my car down that road.


“A stray rock could fly up and snap your axel in two.” Mom seriously thought a pebble could crack inches of steel. Let me just add to this little scenario the fact Mom didn’t even put gas in her car. She, who knew nothing about automobiles, somehow knew about “pebble axel”.

And there it stood. I couldn’t drive to my friend’s house.

So what did I do? I drove over there anyway—until the evening David ratted me out. We were all chatting in my living room.


“So you gotta hear what Cody said last night in my room,” David said.


Mom flew up out of her chair. “Your room?!” She glared at me. “YOU DROVE ON THAT CALICHE ROAD!”


David’s eyes went from normal to “deer trapped in headlights.”


I sat there saying, “Um…er…. Ummmmmm,” as my brain fumbled for an excuse.


The next morning, I had to work. I stumbled, half asleep, out to my car. Mom walked out with me.


“What are you doing?” I said.


“I have to run to the library.” She headed to her car and started it up.


Shrugging, I went to my vehicle. I turned the key and nothing happened. I kept trying, but still nothing.


A horn honked. Mom was waving from her car. “What’s wrong?”


I hopped out of mine. “It won’t start!”


“You have to be at work!”


I threw my arms up. “I know!”


“Well, get in and I’ll take you. Your dad can look at it later.”


Two weeks passed before my dad looked at my car. Two weeks to the day. And I was expressly forbidden from fixing it myself.


“I don’t want you or your friends messing something up!” Mom said. “You’ll wait for your father.”


Again, I had to wait exactly two weeks. And then, Dad fixed it in about five minutes.


The problem?


“The battery cable came loose,” Dad said.


Suspicious? Well, let’s examine the evidence:
  1. My car stopped working the day after Mom became furious at me.
  2. Mom just happened to be leaving at the same time as me so I wouldn’t be late for work.
  3. I wasn’t allowed to touch my car for exactly two weeks.
  4. The problem was a loose battery cable.
I think we an all know what happened: I was being punished. I was too old to be grounded, but, with a little Dad sabotage, my parents found a way.


I never looked at my parents the same after that. I’d always believed the random coincidences and excuses. But they’d taken it too far. Despite mom’s insistence the caliche road shook the cable loose, I knew what had really happened. And I wouldn’t let it go.


Years of needling later, Dad finally came clean. And my parents fell from their positions atop twin towers of diabolical genius.


Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, will be out October 27th, 2015. He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.


MY FAMILY by Jon Magee


I am the youngest of six children. My father served in the British Royal Air Force, and my family moved frequently, from one part of the world to another. By the time I had completed my secondary schooling, I had studied in 14 different educational establishments. As a result, my siblings, along with my parents, were the core of my childhood relationships—how do you bond with a grandparent who lives on the other side of the world? With friends you see for a year or two?


My immediate family was the continuity from one experience to another. I remember the walks we took together through the hills and in and out of the caves that surrounded our home in Germany.  We lived under the threat from terrorism and military conflict in Aden. In Singapore, we climbed coconut trees to enjoy the fruit, along with the milk inside.


It was as a family that we would also develop a close bonding with people of different races and cultures. We shared picnics together, as if we were all part of a wider family. The colour of the skin was not relevant, but our relating together as people of the human race was.


When it came to Christmas, I recall soldiers being invited to the home to enjoy a family Christmas meal. They were stationed abroad, as we were, with no family at all to spend time with, not even brothers and sisters and parents. We had more than they had in terms of family, but together we shared some of what family is meant to be.


When returning from Singapore on the ship, the Empire Fowey, I recall my mum speaking of my gran and aunt, who we would be staying with for a few months. I looked from the ship wondering who these folks would be, what would they be like. My aunt met us, a stranger to me. I was not sure how I should be relating as a child, yet here was someone that was clearly important to my mother.


During those few months, I found there was nothing to fear. This stranger was not at all strange when I got to know her. She had warmth that would draw children to her, even if she never married and had children of her own. Then came the parting once more. I was a child that needed to move from country to country. A child that nevertheless discovered that family is not just siblings and parents, but also the people of the world wherever we meet and whoever they are, all seeking to know a bonding with the family of the human race.


Jon Magee is the author of From Barren Rocks to Living Stones and Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey. His writings reflect the depth of personal experience, having lived at the heart of much of the major events of late 20th century history. You can find Jon at https://about.me/Jonmagee.author.minister  and


MESSY FAMILIES by Linda Varner Palmer


I love movies about messy, aka dysfunctional, families. I know that sounds weird, but the idea of being loved unconditionally—no matter what awful things you do—intrigues me, the writer who tippy-toed through life doing what she was supposed to do because she wanted her parents to be proud of her.  Now I’m not saying that my family would’ve tossed me out if I’d rebelled. I had wonderful parents that I love and miss very much. What I am saying is that fear of disappointing them kept me on the straight and narrow. So I like watching a movie about a family that is all over the place.


The Family Stone is my favorite Christmas movie. Set-up: Mom’s breast cancer has come back, and she hasn’t told anyone but Dad, who is doing his best to pretend nothing is wrong so they can have a last happy holiday with their five grown children—Susannah, Amy, Ben, Thad, and Everett.


Susannah is happily married and pregnant with her second child. Her husband will be arriving on Christmas day. Amy and Ben are both single. Thad, who is deaf and gay, is in a relationship with an African American named Brian, who has come with him. Everett is dating Meredith and has brought her to meet the family. He plans to get his grandmother’s diamond ring and propose.


No one but Everett likes outspoken, fashion-conscious, foot-in-her-mouth Meredith. Feeling outnumbered, Meredith asks her sister Julie to join them. Julie agrees, because that’s what sisters do, and hops on a bus.


As the movie progresses, we realize the family is right about Meredith. She and Everett are not a good match. Julie, her sister, on the other hand, is perfect. Perhaps that’s why Everett can’t take his eyes off her. Does Meredith notice? Not so much. She and Ben, who helps her escape to a bar, seem to be oddly in sync. Can you see where this is going? Meanwhile, Thad and Brian are trying to adopt a baby.


By the end of the movie (one scene a year later), we see that this completely dysfunctional family has somehow survived not only the death of their beloved Mom, but also a complete shuffling of the roles they once played. With love, forgiveness, and acceptance, the family Stone has become even stronger and bigger than before.


Another favorite movie is Moonstruck, which is about two dysfunctional families. Mama and Papa Castorini live in a big house with their adult daughter, Loretta, Grandpa Castorini, and several dogs. Loretta has just accepted a marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri, who has to return to Italy to see his dying-mother. Before he leaves, Johnny asks Loretta to find his estranged brother Ronnie and tell him that he wants to end the bad blood between them.


Loretta finds Ronnie, but he’s still angry with big brother Johnny for distracting him, resulting in the loss of several fingers to a bread slicer. Loretta naturally wants to repair the broken relationship and fix Ronnie, who is definitely damaged goods. Somehow they wind up in bed.


While a big full moon shines down on them all, Loretta goes to the opera with Ronnie, who has promised he won’t ruin her engagement by spilling the beans.  At the Met, she runs into Papa C with a woman who isn’t Mama C. Papa tells her he won’t tell Johnny if she won’t tell Mama. Loretta, already annoyed because Papa C doesn’t want to pay for her wedding, doesn’t know what to do.


By the final scene, Papa C agrees to give up his floozy and is forgiven for straying.   Johnny, who promised his manipulative dying-mother that he wouldn’t marry, has returned to the US and the Castorini home so he can break the engagement. He finds all the Castorinis, and his brother Ronnie, at the breakfast table. That’s a shock, but Johnny manages to break up with Loretta. He asks for his ring back. Ronnie promptly borrows the ring and proposes to Loretta, who accepts. Poor Johnny—so confused.


The best part? Everyone celebrates the engagement with champagne, even Johnny, because they’re all family now and that’s what families do. There are many other movies out there with the same theme. And I always take to heart the message that acceptance, forgiveness, and love—unconditional love—are what family is really all about.


Linda Palmer has been writing for pleasure since the third grade. She was a Romance Writers of America finalist twice and won the 2011 and 2012 EPIC eBook awards in the Young Adult category. Linda married her junior high school sweetheart many years ago and lives in Arkansas, USA with her supportive family. Learn more about Linda and her writing at www.lindavpalmer.com
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Cornucopia of Thanksgiving Nuggets by Sharla Lee Shults


Within the Thanksgiving Holiday, opportunities abound with blessings that Embrace the Past, Empower the Present, and Enrich the Future. History books are filled with accounts of the first Thanksgiving. Within that history are some of the coolest nuggets of trivia surrounding this day that nudge at the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Embrace the Past…

With the coming of Thanksgiving comes a special time to embrace the past. The feast of which we are most familiar took place when the Pilgrims arrived and the Wampanoag Indians gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. This was a time of autumn celebration and that’s right, it took place in the 17th century!

Did you know?

  • Turkey may not have been the main meat that filled the guests’ bellies at the first feast,
  • George Washington declared Thanksgiving to be a February holiday,
  • Fledgling colonists lacked butter and wheat flour for baking, thus no pumpkin pie,
  • Whether mashed or roasted, white or sweet, potatoes had no place at the first Thanksgiving, and
  • While cranberries were plentiful, in wasn’t until 50 years later that sauces and relishes were made with the tart orbs.

Even though turkey may NOT have been the main meat that filled the Pilgrim’s bellies at that first feast, one can rest assured that today very few tables will be void of Mr. Tom Turkey with all the trimmings. In fact, if it had been left up to Benjamin Franklin, the Turkey, not the Bald Eagle, would have been designated as our national bird. Mr. Tom would have been fed his own feast at Thanksgiving, rather than being the bird feasted upon!

What about corn?

With no mention having been made of corn brings about thoughts of popcorn, one of America’s favorite snacks that has become ever so popular during Thanksgiving with flavors such as garlic mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. Would you believe there is even a turkey-flavored, as well as dressing, variety? Since corn was a staple of the Pilgrim’s diet and ubiquitous to the Americas, this brings about the question…

Did Pilgrims Eat Popcorn?

Some believe to this day
Popcorn as a “parched” treat
Was brought by the Indians
To the first Thanksgiving feast

Banquets of harvest tradition
Surpass any myth of yore
Hearty, bountiful plenty
Did grace every table galore

Venison, goose, duck, and eel
Beckoned the most squeamish lad
Time of rejoicing and feasting
Meant only the best to be had

A cornucopia of fresh fruits
Berries, grapes, apples, and plums
Competed with homegrown veggies
Squash, peas, beans, even white corn

No potatoes to be had
Pumpkin pie hadn’t been invented
Bread puddings, milk, and honey
Left no appetite unattended

Indeed much more beer than water
Quenched the harshest of thirsts
With gin and wine not far behind
Unbeknownst which came first

But what about the popcorn?
Were pilgrims the early munchers
Of that salty, puffed corn treat
Or was someone else the launcher?

Not until over a century later
Did sweet yellow corn none the least
Become corn that traditionally “popped”
As part of a Thanksgiving feast

©2012 Awakenings
Sharla Lee Shults

With popcorn prevalent today, it is no wonder it finds a place on and off the Thanksgiving dinner table like never before. Just think you can enjoy all the succulent flavors of a traditional Thanksgiving meal with the only utensil to wash being your hands!

Empower the Present…

Did you know there are two sides to the Thanksgiving holiday? One is celebration with a holiday feast often referred to as Turkey Day. The other is a celebration of gratitude known as thankfulness. Which will you celebrate this holiday, perhaps like me it will be both!

Thanksgiving Day: A Holiday Feast

Cornucopias of fruits and veggies
Turkey, trimmings, cakes, and pies
More than anyone could ask
Instead of a treat, become our demise

All time family favorites
Homemade dishes galore
Make us gluttons for punishment
Beckoning more, more, more

Thirsts quenched, bellies overstuffed
Rocking chair conversation not too deep
Is it rocking motions or Tom Turkey
That puts everyone to sleep?

Thanksgiving: A Celebration of Gratitude

Cornucopias of thoughts with gratitude
Thanks from the heart, as well as the lips
More blessings than anyone could ask
Comes with all the trimmings this day equips

Family and friends unite in fellowship
Granting praise for all the gifts of the year
A candle is lit and with prayerful hands
The blessed meaning of Thanksgiving is clear

Whether heart-to-heart, hand-in-hand
Meaning never scatters
It’s the power of gratitude
Why Thanksgiving matters

©2009 Remembering
Sharla Lee Shults


This day forward may the message remain resolute during daily meetings
Thoughtfulness begets thankfulness within hugs & smiles of holiday greetings!



Enrich the Future…

Thanksgiving is a day of celebration not only for the blessings of today but for blessings to be extended into tomorrow’s tomorrows. Take a moment to count your blessings but most importantly ask yourself how you can bless someone else. Perhaps something as simple as a smile could brighten someone’s day. Bring blessings into the world around you—one moment, one day, one person at a time. The future is in your hands!

There will be many empty seats at tables across our nation this Thanksgiving as conflict still rages overseas. Thousands of brave young men and women in uniform are defending our nation on foreign shores. Remember them: Our troops—men and women— who are away from home, separated from the ones they love, for the greater good of America.

Support our Troops: Support America!

On this day, every day may each soldier be blessed
’Til reunited with loved ones to hold, to caress!

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Five Tips for Marketing through Presenting Yourself (and not just your PowerPoint or Prezi!)  by Joyce F. Elferdink

cMarketing is an issue—and typically a struggle—for all small business people. As we are constantly told, we must be regular participants in a variety of social media sites. But that’s not all, folks … Meeting potential customers face-to-face by doing presentations, some at our local libraries and community groups, others through live broadcasts that reach the corners of the globe (if we’re so lucky!) are possibly even more important marketing strategies.

Since I teach Presentation Techniques to college students, I’m hoping that teaching tips I’ve given to former students may help you market yourself, and not just your product or service, even more successfully.

Let’s begin with the biggest hurdle in the classroom (because it may also be yours)—it is how to display passion, especially when you’re nervous. Here’s the way it’s done: Don’t read your message! When you look down to read, your passion dims. Since it’s virtually impossible to memorize a speech—and I NEVER suggest that—speak extemporaneously (as if you’re conversing with friends, but you are much more prepared).

And here are my five tried and true presentation tips:

  1. Do memorize most of your intro, or plan an attention-getter that you know you know. You might lose your audience if you don’t present your first few words with passion. You could have a quotation or a statistic that startles an audience, but whatever you begin with, let people see and hear what it means to you.
  2. Use notes but with VERY few words and phrases; prepare ONLY an outline, not an essay. Then, a quick peek gives you what you need to continue so that eye contact is only broken for a few seconds.
  3. Don’t strive for perfection! When conversing with your friends, you speak from the heart. That’s what we need to do when giving formal speeches, too. Making a determined effort at eloquence is often the barrier. Letting it flow from the heart as much or more than from the brain is the key. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared (actually the more information we have, the more we can relax and know that we have enough to sway our audience, even if we forget some).   What I mean is the poetic phrase is less important than the passion behind it.
  4. When you research—as you must do for any good speech, even to persuade your audience that you are an expert in your field—analyze what you’ve found by looking at the data for new meanings and comparisons. That might come from contrasting a scene in your writing to an actual incident or to another writer’s style. Or it might be how you built on others’ techniques to create an “even better mousetrap.” Give your audience examples they can relate to, but use descriptive language to make it an “aha” moment.
  5. In your conclusion, share a wonderful story or quote that relates to what you’re marketing, and then ask for their support/business. Don’t forget to tell them how to make the purchase!


Author Bio: Since I like to know what my friends do for fun, I’ll answer that question about myself: I participate in several groups—book clubs. They are Hope Academy of Senior Professionals, Friendship Force and Meetups. I’m also a member of our local photography club even though I’ve given up my dream of becoming an expert photographer.  I haven’t given up my dream of being a slightly famous author, though.  I self-published my first novel, Pieces of You, in 2012.  Its sequel, The Battle of Jericho: 2035, may be delayed by my next adventure. I’ll be teaching teachers at a Ukraine University as a volunteer with Peace Corps Response for most of 2016.

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Alpha—Omega An Irreverence by Kenneth Weene


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“Worthless!” The trumpeting blast of Jehovah’s voice set the bowls of manna jumping. Waves of mead swished from goblets. Two unsuspecting seraphim were knocked from their precarious perches atop great golden harps.

In the aftermath, quiet reigned in the massive hall. Every saintly and angelic eye was turned towards the All Mighty.

Finally, His trembling son asked, “What’s wrong, Dad?”

“Humans,” came the only slightly less thunderous reply. “Humans. Why did I create them? Worthless!” Again the crockery jigged. One of the two seraphim, not having gained a purchase on his proper seat, again fell to the floor.

“You could wipe them out and start over,” the tempter suggested. “A nice flood.”

“Tried that. Lot of good it did,” the Mighty One answered.

“Then perhaps an exodus,” suggested Mormon, clapping his wings in anticipation; “I have some planets you could buy.”

“Same difference.” Jehovah’s brow knitted with contemplation. The quiet only broken by the soft patter of righteousness falling on the roof.

After what seemed like the eternity it was, the Creator spoke again. “I fear that humans are irredeemable. They are infected with greed.”

“Then destroy them,” Lucifer suggested, drool flowing from the corner of his mouth and into the hissing goatee-fire of his beard.

“Take a dump on them,” added the first Protestant as he nailed his suggestion to the great mansion’s Pearly Gate.

“Then what would Jesus and I watch for entertainment?” God asked. “The angelic host? Boring. These guys just sit around waiting to do my will. No free will; no drama. J.C. and I like a good soap—you know, a little action.” He threw a celestial wink at Aphrodite who watched closely to make sure he didn’t cast another towards that hussy Mary.

J.C. nudged that giggling Magdalene girl under the table.

“Then,” the tempter suggested, “You could try creating another world. Of course the human creatures would end up the same, filled with greed. But, why not try.”

Never one to avoid a challenge, Jehovah responded immediately, “Good idea; I will create another world with a new mankind—one without greed.”

When the buzz had died, Thomas, always quick to raise doubts, suggested, “Instead of an entire planet you might try a trial run, you know just a small test world, to see if such a species can be created.”

Some of the saints tried to shush Thomas, but Jehovah put his great hand on the saint’s shoulder. “Another good idea. That is what we shall do. A laboratory world.” The laugh of divine pleasure which followed the words swept through the hall. The lead cherubim, who as always stood before the heavenly choir, was so surprised by God’s merriment that she farted. The sweet smell of her wind added another layer to the growing jocularity of the Heavenly assembled.

The Holy One was again in a good mood.  Hallelujah! Even better, He would be busy in his laboratory—with any luck for another seven days. A respite from His tantrums.

All bowed as The Father, swirling His cape, exited the hall.

Even as He strode the corridors of Heaven, Jehovah was designing this new world. It would have two races of man. They would live in two separate regions of the world—lands separated by the abyss of a great wasteland. Each land would have almost all it needed.

But there had to be some reason for the two races to interact. God sat at His laboratory bench and contemplated the challenge. Finally, He had it. In only one country He placed the precious metals gold and silver; in the other spices grew and flourished. The two races would have to trade for these two valuables, but only for the two. “It will be a fair trade,” He thought, “a trade between equals.” Why risk war or theft when things are so even. Not like Earth with their assured mutual annihilation but a peace based on assured mutual benefit. “Perfect! Now to design a way for them to trade—just enough contact but not too much.”

In seven days the new world of AlphaOme had been created. After resting from His labors, Jehovah explained to His son, “This will be a show we can watch without worry. No souls lost to evil. No hearts taken with greed. Just love. Just people being creative. And some good sex, of course. How blissful it will be.”

The next day, the Creator allowed the hosts of heaven to see His handiwork.

Paul was the first to speak. “How will they know all the rules? They must have rules.”

Peter, as usual, disagreed. “Human nature is basically good. If they open their hearts to the Lord, they will be saved.”

Moroni was packing his bags. “Where are you going?” God asked.

“To knock on their doors and tell them the good news,” Moroni answered.

“No!” Jehovah responded. “We will watch from here and let these humans discover their own goodness.”

Melek Taus, in all his peacock finery, announced, “I will not bow before this new humanity.

God, acknowledging that angels were incapable of learning, laughed and threw a divine cabbage at the resplendent angel’s head.

Moses and Muhammad argued about what these new humans would be allowed to eat. When the Prophet suggested rump roast, the Law Giver was apoplectic. “Well at least we’ve agreed no pork,” Muhammad said offering his hand in fraternity.

Vishnu screamed, “Ram, they’re doing it again—eating my cows.”

Another round of yelling and recriminations ensued. The argument grew loud enough to disturb Buddha. “Eating is an illusion,” the Enlightened Soul explained before helping himself to a plate from the buffet.

“Enough,” God thundered. “Can’t you children ever quiet down?”

“But, but…” the host sputtered.

“But nothing. No prophets allowed. They’ll just cut of fyour heads,” John joked. At least that gave Jesus the relief of a much-needed laugh.

So the new world was established without law, prophecy, or sacred text. The new people lived, loved, and provided comfortable celestial viewing, but without the violence and argument over what was the will of the Almighty and what truly did not matter. The contact between the Alphas and the Omegas was limited to trade in precious metal and spices and the occasional falling into love or lust, a distinction, which in a world without religion, did not seem to matter. The route across the wasteland allowed the necessary movement of goods and lovers, but it was a long journey with little rest or water. “You keep to your side, and we’ll keep to ours,” would have been the motto if anyone thought to have one; but in a world with proper balance there is no need for mottos.

The Tempter was, as usual, discontent. Nothing happened to disturb God, and Satan loves drama. What good to him was a world without sturm und drang or, even worse, without war?  “Want to bet?” he asked, knowing that Jehovah was a sucker for a good wager. “Remember Job?” he added as if the Divine One needed to have His memory jogged.

“What kind of mischief are you up to now?” God asked. While He tried for the sternness of a rebuke, He could not keep the hint of amusement from His voice or the great orbs of His all-seeing eyes.

“I bet the Alphas and the Omegas aren’t as peaceful as You think. I bet I can get them fighting with just one simple intervention.”

God, quite sure of His handiwork, could not resist the challenge; but He would insist on rules. “You can’t give one something you don’t give the other. You cannot create a scarcity so that the people must fight to survive. To win the bet, the fight must come from within them not from you egging it on.”

Satan offered his pitchfork in agreement. God wrapped it in His might, and the bet was settled.

Lucifer sent two of his minions to the new Earth, one to each of the two nations. Both bore a scientific discovery, how to make the scaliate waste of the abyss into fuel that would allow the people to live better. “No scarcity,” he observed; “there is enough scaliate in that desert to last all the generations of AlphaOme forever.”

Before the Devil’s emissaries left for AlphaOme, Lucifer checked with God. No way was he going to cheat. One eternity spent imprisoned for being a trickster was enough. How was he to know that the Boss was that serious about not coaching those first humans into sin? After all, they were dumb enough to listen to a talking snake; why give them a second thought? And how was he to know that Jehovah’s brat son would be so compassionate, would keep trying to intervene on behalf of those earthly idiots?

“So you propose making the lives of these people better?” God asked.

“That’s right, Divine One.” Lucifer groveled at the Omnipotent’s feet — no point in riling the boss.

“And you think this will bring out the worst in them?”

“Yes, Majestic Ruler of the Universe.”

Even Solomon and Loki were smirking. Was Lucifer really that much of a toady or was he just putting God on? Either way, he was making an ass of himself, a fact duly recorded in Ovid’s notebooks.

God sought the advice of Jesus, who could see no harm in Lucifer’s proposal. Even Jan Hus and Calvin agreed that there was no sin in it. Martin Luther would have been consulted except he was occupied in the crapper. At least Lao Tzu pronounced it the way to go.

Off the two angels of science went.

Within a millennium, which is hardly a breath in the time of Heaven, the Alphas and the Omegas were at war. Both claimed the wasteland as their own. Both were determined that they and they alone should hold the power of the new technology, which meant controlling the scaliate, that necessary raw material.

As the new planet shook with battle, God raised his glass of mead to Lucifer. “Well, Beelzebub, you’ve called it this time. Humans cannot resist greed.”

The Devil tipped his glass in return. “So, how are you going to destroy them?” he asked, hoping for a cataclysmic event.

“Destroy them?” God laughed. The rolling of His merriment swayed the stars. His breath, which even Augustine had to admit smelled of too much mead, made some of the cherubs drunk just from being in the hall. “Destroy them? Why? I think I’ll do the same as I have done with the humans of Earth — just sit back and watch. I figure they’ll make AlphaOme uninhabitable soon enough. They’ll kill themselves off. The hell with them all.”

He looked to his son, who jumped on a table and led the rousing cheer: “To hell with them all. To HELL with them all.”


Ken is giving away an electronic copy of his book “Broody New Englander” and one of his latest short story collection “Sweet and Sour”. Visit our giveaway page to learn how you can possibly win.


Ken Weene’s satiric views of religion, mental health, politics, and the human condition in general underlie his novels, short fiction, essays, and poetry. To find more of Ken’s work and ideas visit his web site and purchase his books at Amazon.

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THE HARDEST WORD —  By Bryan Murphy


To write science fiction, even the dystopian kind, is to express optimism, for inherent in all science fiction is the claim that there will actually be a future.

The future in whose existence we can have most confidence is of course the near future, which has been shaped mostly by us old-timers. Because it is likely in many ways to be a dark future, today’s young people deserve an apology from us. So here comes one: “Sorry!” On behalf of my whole generation.

From my generation of Brits, it has to be even more heartfelt, because we had things so much easier than most people elsewhere, and therefore have more to answer for. We were born after the Second World War had ended; we had the National Health Service but no National Service; our politicians declined to send us to kill and die in Vietnam; we were nurtured on free school milk, given grants to study and found jobs if we wanted them. Naturally, we wanted more, though for everyone, not just ourselves. Indeed, we got more, but mostly for ourselves.

The end of those days of plenty was foreshadowed when a Minister of Education stopped milk being offered to the nation’s children and thereby earned herself the nickname “The Milk Snatcher” to rhyme with her surname: Thatcher, a word no longer connected with roofing so much as with a longing to return to feudal levels of inequality, a phenomenon that tends to favor the older generation, at least while pensions still exist.

To my eyes, today’s young people are showing amazing creativity, coupled with a superior resistance to bullshit, so maybe we can claim their education as our one success. Will that creativity and perspicacity be enough to guarantee them a future? Frankly, I doubt it. Our problem as a species, in my view, is that our technological evolution has far outpaced our social evolution. Nihilists who see the continued existence of human life as an optional irrelevance, from the left-behind “Neo-Cons” of yesterday to today’s “Islamic State”, are more than happy to use the former to forestall the latter, and their successors will have an even better chance of finishing the job.

So, probably, no future for anyone. That means that today’s science fiction is sheer fantasy. Dammit, I never set out to write Fantasy. To paraphrase Oliver Hardy: “This is a fine mess we’ve got you into”. Joking apart, to the youngsters, once again, sorry.


You can find ancient British author Bryan Murphy’s dark futures and other writings here: http://bit.ly/19vt7Ts as well as at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and other major booksellers.

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Winter had settled in, and Central California carried a sharp, stringing cold that made me appreciate the warmth of the classroom as I entered it that night. With a year of teaching writing behind me, and several students who were now published, I had gained confidence in my ability to help other writers reach their goals.

That night just after class began, an attractive, dark-haired woman dressed in white entered the room, walked to the back, and slid into a seat next to Raquel Aleman, one of my regulars.

With shaking hands, Raquel read an essay that night. Unlike her bilingual children’s stories, “I Fought Back” described Raquel’s abusive marriage and her struggle to overcome her fear when her husband shoved her into the bedroom closet as he frequently did when he brought women to their home. This time, she burst out and confronted both the shaken husband and his woman.

When Raquel finished reading, everyone applauded, the first time that had happened in my class.

As students praised Raquel, the woman in white looked straight ahead, as if she didn’t hear.

“I’ve never told this to anyone,” Raquel said to the class. “I can’t begin to explain how free I feel, and how scared.”

We talked then about how the only things that own us are those of which we cannot speak. We talked about possible markets for her essay. Although we critiqued numerous manuscripts that night, Raquel’s was the one everyone praised as they left the room.

Usually quiet, she was animated as she paused at the door. “See you at the Robin,” she told me.

After class each week, many of us met at Red Robin, and some of our best ideas happened there. This was the first night Raquel would join us.

Students continued to file out until only the woman in white and I remained. Her black hair was pulled back from her face, her lips a deep red. Those are the only details I recall, and even they are suspect. When I think about her now, I’m sure she wore a white suit. In other attempts to recall her, I’ve told myself it was a white dress similar to one I used to own.

We stepped outside, and I started toward my car. “Which way are you heading?” I asked.

“The same way you are, I think.” Her voice was low and controlled.

Panic attacks hid out in the parking lot. Lights could play in weird ways, and even when I thought I was balanced and happy, a crippling wave waited behind every corner. I was grateful to have this stranger with me, grateful and curious. Side by side, we headed through the cold night air toward the parking lot, and I wondered if I should invite her to meet us at Red Robin.

“I liked your class,” she said. “I’m sorry I joined late. I just saw it in the school catalog yesterday.”

“I’m glad you came,” I told her. “Have you written before?”

“Only journals, but I can never get it down. I thought maybe this would help.”

We reached my car, and I leaned against the back passenger door. Something was making me anxious. If I didn’t have the solid surface against my back, I wouldn’t have been able to stand there.

“Maybe it’s time,” I said. “I’ve heard that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

“I hope so.” She spoke in a clear tone devoid of emotion. “Several years ago, my daughter was killed by a drunk driver.”

I hadn’t expected that, and certainly not in such a calm, practiced tone. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to get too personal.”

“Don’t apologize. I wanted to tell you. It destroyed my life.” Again, she spoke in a matter-of-fact way, as if she had rehearsed this speech for me. “Almost a year after that, my son died of a drug overdose.”

“That’s terrible. What did you do?” I didn’t know how else to respond.

“Part of me was furious with him for doing that, especially since he knew that my daughter’s death had nearly destroyed me. I was so devastated, so…” She stopped and stepped back as if she had second thoughts. “I know you want to go meet the others. Is it okay for me to tell you this?”

“It’s okay.” I felt glued to the ground. For whatever reason, I needed to listen to her.

She sighed, as if attempting to collect her thoughts. “I went to work for the IRS. It was easy because no one cared, and everything was rigid. I had to be on time. I couldn’t talk to anyone. Do you understand?”

“In a way I do,” I said. “You didn’t want to feel.”

“Do you think writing will help?” she asked.

“All I can tell you is it’s a great healer.”

“I believe that.” She glanced around the dim parking lot at the other students who were laughing and talking just a few feet from us. “I can’t share this with anyone at work. I set it up that way, of course. My marriage is over. Both of my children are dead. I’m not just grieving. I’m angry.”

“You’ll be safe here.” I believed that, and I felt connected to her and to the honesty of her words. “If you don’t want to read in class, you don’t have to. Just try to start writing what you feel. Don’t edit yourself or worry about what anyone will think. No one will see it unless you want them to, I promise.”

“That’s what I need.” For the first time, she smiled. “When I heard Raquel read tonight, I wondered how it would feel to be that open.”

“Raquel didn’t get there overnight,” I said. She got there by doing the work.”

The last car left the lot, and I realized my hands were numb from the cold.

The woman glanced at me and then at her watch, although I doubt that she could have seen it in the darkness. “I’m so sorry I took your time. I have never told anyone what I shared with you just now.”

“It’s all right,” I told her. “Remember what I said about healing. I know writing can do that for you. It has for me.”

We talked longer, close to thirty minutes.

Then I watched her walk to her car and realized that I had somehow slipped into panic mode. I, who had been leaning against the passenger door, was so weak that I had to feel my way to get into the driver’s seat. Inside, I took deep breaths and tried to calm the crazed flutter of my heart. It was as if I were expressing the anxiety the woman in white could not.

She never returned.

At first, I made excuses. Perhaps she had to work late. Maybe something else had come up. But the moment I walked into my classroom the next week and saw the empty seat next to Raquel, I knew.

“It’s because she confessed to you,” a friend told me later. “Every time she looked at you, she would have to remember.”

I wonder.

What happened to the woman in white? Why didn’t she return? Did she ever write? Could I have said or done something to encourage her?

At first, I thought I had failed her. Then I had to remind myself that our encounter that night was about her, not about me. I may have been only one person on her path to share that story, only one of many strangers who would bring her closer to coming to grips with it.

Raquel sold her personal essay that year and much later, her memoir. In the twenty years I taught that class, we celebrated many successes, including my book deal with a major publisher for my first six suspense novels.

For a long time, I tried to remember the name of the woman in white, as if that detail would anchor other memories and maybe an explanation. I can’t believe that I would let a student float in and out of my classroom without asking her name.

Some stories have no endings, no structure to contain them, no red bows on top. When I share with others what I recall of this one, I always hear the same question. “Could you have imagined her?”

I’ve asked myself that as well. No one else with whom I’ve discussed it, including Raquel, remembers seeing her that evening.

Was the woman in white some part of me, a metaphor for that quality in all of us who dare to confront our pain and try to put our voices on paper? Was she part of my own healing?

No. The woman in my classroom and that parking lot was a real as I am. One night many years ago, she stepped into my life and allowed me a glimpse into hers. Even now, I’m not sure what I saw, or why.



Bonnie Hearn Hill’s many mysteries can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Hearn-Hill/e/B001HMUYPQ

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Family Man By Patricia Dusenbury


A family man and proud of it, Rick Stelljes enjoyed his kids’ dinner table chatter. Johnny’s class took a field trip to the aquarium; Linda thought she’d aced her geometry test.

“Keep it up, Baby,” he told her. “You’re gonna be the first Stelljes to graduate college, and it’s gonna be a big-name school.”

“Daddy.” She smiled indulgently. “Everyone from Windsor Prep goes to a good college.”

Headlights flickered through the drapes; someone was pulling up in front. Richie went to check – people here parked in driveways – and saw the kid next door getting dropped off. He sat back down.

“I’m going to Harvard,” Johnny said.

“You get in, son, I’ll pay for it.”

No one had ever asked Rick about his day at his stinking dump of a school. The smartest kid in the class, he’d made up for it by being the meanest. He would have been dead or in prison by eighteen if Mr. Dee hadn’t taken an interest in him, hadn’t become like a father to him. He’d been working for Mr. Dee twenty years now. Married to Tanya for fifteen. Every day of his life, he thanked God for his good luck.

Johnny and Linda went upstairs to do their homework, and Tanya asked if he wanted an after-dinner drink.

“Not tonight, baby. I’ve got a late meeting.” He pushed back from the table. “Time for me to go.”

“I wish you didn’t have to.”

Rick also wished he didn’t have to. He liked Billy Balfour, but Billy had crossed a line. “I won’t be late. You make sure those kids do their homework.”

“They’re good kids.”

“I know. And you’re a good mom.” He stood and kissed the top of his wife’s head.

Walking through the family room on his way to the garage, Rick admired the leather sofas and the wide-screen TV. At 72 inches, it really was a home theater. When he got back, he and Tanya could watch a movie, something light. He was going to need to decompress.

The monitor mounted on the garage wall showed multiple pictures of a quiet yard and an empty street. Rick pushed a button and a section of wall swung away, revealing the cabinet that held his guns. He selected a Glock 9mm and an AWC Abraxis supressor. The Abraxis didn’t muffle the noise as well as his Osprey, but it was lighter and smaller, which could be important tonight. After another check of the monitor, Rick slid behind the wheel, turned the key in the ignition, and pressed the garage door opener.

Tomorrow or the day after, they’d find Billy, shot twice through the back of his head. The news would call it an execution, and they’d be right. More important, people who might have been tempted to try some free-lancing would be reminded that Mr. Dee didn’t tolerate disloyalty, and Rick Stelljes would have another $25,000 to keep his family safe and comfortable.



Bio:  Patricia Dusenbury is a retired economist and the author of the Claire Marshall trilogy, which if it had a name, would be called A Path Through the Ashes. The first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015 best mystery by the Electronic Industry Publishing Coalition. The second book, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a Preditors and Editors top ten mystery. Book 3, A House of Her Own, was released in October.  This nasty little story was inspired by a conversation with a friend who is a criminal defense attorney.  Are you sure you know where your neighbor works?


Web page:  www.PatriciaDusenbury.com

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Mason clutched mother’s hand, his steps quickened to keep up. There were so many people. The young boy felt fear mix with the excitement of a new adventure.

Firecracker pops filled the air. He heard cries of surprise and yelps of alarm. Mason loved fireworks but could not see over the heads of the people as mother pulled him up the hard steel stairs and into the trains’ interior.

“Mommy, stop. I want to go see the fireworks.”

“Shush Mason. Not now.”

Tears filled his eyes. How could she be so mean? He heard more pops and cracks and pouted in defiance of her words. The fireworks were still going on and he wanted to see them. He yanked from her hands’ grasp and turned to exit the train. So many people. They roughly jammed into his small body. Mason pressed against his mother’s wool coat. A raven-haired girl fell at his feet. The crowd stepped upon her tiny arms, torso and face until she was no longer visible.

Mason looked up at his mother, “Mommy, they’re hurting her.”

“That is not your concern, Mason.” She pulled her son close. “You stay near me or you’ll be next.”

It was getting warm; he wanted to take off the heavy coat and hat. It was futile even to attempt to raise his arm or move his hand more than a couple inches from his body. The pressure of the other people’s bodies hurt. Each second brought them closer, squeezing and squishing his small frame.

“It’s hard to breathe, Mommy.” Tears ran down his cheeks. The excitement of a train ride replaced by pain and grief.

The shrill scraping of the trains‘ steel doors as they closed caused his ears to pound and his head to throb. This wasn’t fun anymore. Mason wanted to go home. He embraced mother‘s leg. His sobs grew louder. Mother raised his head, fingers under his chin, and wiped the tears from his face.

“Don’t fear, Mason, We are going for a visit to a camp in the Ukraine. There will be yummy food and a nice place to live. Won’t it be fun spending each day with Mommy?”

Mason’s face brightened at the thought of food and of spending days with his mother. He just knew this would be the most exciting adventure of his life. He smiled in anticipation;  his eyes twinkled with delight.

He was fast asleep when the train pulled into Auschwitz-Birkenau.


Author and radio show personality Monica Brinkman mixes suspense, horror, and spirituality in her writing which can be found at Amazon. You can get to know her more personally on It Matters Radio, the Internet based program that she hosts.

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Why does an Englishman write American crime? by R.J. Ellory

photo for wed october 26

This is a question I have been asked so many times.  Enough times for me to take a long look at it, if for no other reason than to have an answer next time I am asked.

Paul Auster said that becoming a writer was not a ‘career decision’ like becoming a doctor or a policeman.  You don’t choose it so much as get chosen, and once you accepted the fact that you were not fit for anything else, you had to be prepared to walk a long, hard road for the rest of your days, and I concur with his attitude.

I feel the same way about genres.  I think the genre chose me, as opposed to my choosing the genre.

The thing that has always fascinated me, and the thing that I believe is the only thing that fascinates authors really, is people.  It’s that simple.

Life is people.  People are life.  Without people there is nothing to talk about, nothing worth saying.

And why American crime?  Because such a genre presents me with a broad canvas, and upon that canvas I can write conspiracy, thriller, romance, history, politics, social commentary.  I think US crime holds a mirror up to society better than any other genre.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly for me, crime gives me an opportunity to present my ‘people’ with situations that they would never experience in ordinary life.  This then gives me possibility of putting those people through the mill emotionally, and that is where my true interest lies.

So that is where my selection of genre and subject matter comes from, and right from the first book – Candlemoth – I have tried to create real and believable characters and storylines that have this American cultural and political background.  Candlemoth is the story of two boys, one black, one white, who grow up together from the early 50’s in North Carolina.  It tracks through that time period – up through the death of JFK and Martin Luther King, through Nixon and Watergate, all the significant political and social events of that time.  The story is told in flashback from the perspective of the main protagonist, the white boy now in his 30s, who is on Death Row for the murder of his black friend.  The events are recounted to a Catholic priest sent to reconcile the man to his execution, and it deals with the events that brought him there and how he was consigned to such a fate.  Ghostheart is told from the perspective of the central female character, a young woman who – by the discoveries she makes in the pages of a book – learns the history of New York gangland and underworld figures in the 50s and 60s, and ultimately how this history relates to herself and her own life.  A Quiet Vendetta is a five hundred-page epic that deals with seventy years of accurate Mafia history throughout New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, Havana, and numerous other cities, and is a story told through the eyes of a young man who becomes a hitman for organised crime.  City of Lies is a fast-paced thriller that deals with the lives and crimes of a group of elderly gangsters in Manhattan, and how they use their influence to seduce a younger man into a criminal lifestyle.  It concludes with four violent high-powered armed robberies in four different banks in New York City on Christmas Eve.  A Quiet Belief In Angels is the biography of a young boy growing up in Georgia in the 1930 and 40s, and how his entire life is affected by the killing of a number of young girls in his hometown.  A Simple Act of Violence is essentially two stories – a series of contemporary killings in Washington DC and how these killings are linked to the undercover actions of the CIA in Nicaragua in the 1980s.  The Anniversary Man, is the story of a serial killing survivor who works with the Police to uncover the identity of someone perpetrating killings in New York who is copying famous serial killings of the past and carrying them out of the anniversary of their original occurrence.  Lastly, Saints of New York, deals with corruption within the Organised Crime Control Bureau, child prostitution, the burdens of one policeman against a system that does anything but acknowledge and reward honesty.

I believe that crime fiction is the most widely-read genre fiction in the world currently.  I hope that it will stay that way.  I think – as a genre – it excites, evokes emotion, stimulates mentally, engages, mystifies, perplexes, and pleases readers greatly.  We love puzzles.  We love the dilemmas of ordinary people presented with extraordinary situations.  We love to be challenged.  Is that not the index of a healthy and inquisitive mind, and thus a healthily inquisitive society?  We want to know more.  We want to find out.  We want truth and justice.  And – if we cannot find it within our culture – we have to be reassured that it is still possible within the pages of a book.


R.J. Ellory’s wife thinks he is a workaholic, his son considers him slightly left-of-centre, but they put up with him regardless.  Everybody knows that as a writer and musician, Roger is dedicated to the best in his craft. Having suffered incredible loss after loss in his youth, it would have been easy for R.J. to turn his  brilliance to crime, but fortunately for Britain and us, he has taken to writing great crime fiction instead.

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Workplace Spirituality, The New Management Imperative?


            How can company leaders support their employees’ spiritual needs while simultaneously taking care of the “bottom line” of their business?

Well, let’s take a close look at spirituality. Spirituality seems to be the new “in thing” to do. What is it? I imagine you would receive 15 or 20 different definitions if you polled 30 people. In fact, scholarly research indicates this to be the case. Spirituality is not well defined for a variety of reasons. Chiefly because it is not regulated and not necessarily associated to a particular religion. Hence, its fluidity and its confusion.  Kenneth Pargament posited spirituality is directional, but religion is both directional and goal oriented1. Eric Dale espoused religion provides an end-point answer whereas spirituality does not2. I think that almost hits the nail on the head. Mumphord Kendall stated, in his dissertation on Workplace Spiritualiy, the spiritual “spectrum is extreme atheism, which asserts there is no God or source for higher meaning. At the opposite end of the spectrum is pantheism.” 3 Others feel those claiming spirituality are simply using a lazy excuse to live as they want without any constrictions.  Consequentially, one can easily see implementing spirituality in the workforce can be problematic. Last, there is a paucity of academic research on spirituality. Thus, it is difficult for leaders to assist their employees’ with their spiritual journey while at work. Nor can the leader harness that benefit for their organization. As leaders, the more important thing is to discover how to help your employees express themselves while keeping an eye on work performance and outcomes.

Obviously there are some pitfalls to having workplace spirituality. First, we need to recognize spirituality is compatible but not necessarily dependent or interdependent on religion.  Put another way, an employee can be a religious and not spiritual or nonreligious and still spiritual. The two systems are not mutually exclusive.  Second, the inherent goal of workplace spirituality is the benefit to the workplace, not the individual’s particular religious or nonreligious. In addition, workplace spirituality is not about one employee converting others to their faith. Some may feel it is about proselytizing but it is not. Interestingly, anecdotal and secondary source information seems to attribute proselytizing only to Christianity but not other faiths. Curiously, it appears socially acceptable to discuss belief systems ranging from atheism to Wiccan but not Christianity. This too can be problematic for leaders.

Another issue is tolerance. The catchphrase “coexist” cannot be taken seriously if opposing belief systems are repressed.  Tolerance and understanding should not equate to acceptance.  Some researchers have noted that the push to quiet Catholics and Christians from talking about their faith is an act of intolerance. Most alarming is the acceptance of ambiguous or illogical comparisons that paint Christianity in a bad light. Thus, it would be beneficial for leaders to establish inclusive religious tolerance policies. Further, leaders must be mindful of the impact of implementing workplace spirituality. There is a cache of empirical and open source articles showing Christian religious persecution but a lack of reports of persecutions of other religious beliefs. Consequently, it is difficult to provide a fair comparison as of this date. Nevertheless, it would be reckless to force employees with one belief system to sanitize their conversations while fully embracing non-religious or spiritual conversations. Perhaps an open dialogue would help in paving a pathway to understanding and thus a reduction in the strife. This would be helpful for leaders since many contemporary polls indicate a large portion of society adheres to some Christian values. One author noted the intense emotions and motivations which this subject brings to mind may be a major impetus for the emergence of the study of workplace spirituality.

Leaders should take advantage of the growing trend towards workplace spirituality. They can accomplish this by helping or allowing their employees to express their spirituality at work. Despite the potential pitfalls of workplace spirituality, a growing body of research clearly indicates spiritual workers are hard working, ethical, and happier. To be fair, it remains to be seen which variables are key for these positive impacts to surface. Regardless, it does pose a great management application. Potentially, managers can leverage workplace spirituality to attend to the employee’s needs while benefiting from increased productivity. In sum, workplace spirituality is an emerging phenomenon that is being studied to see the potential pitfalls and benefits. As for this author, I see this as an opportunity for both leaders and employees to come out as winners. It does not matter where you stand on the spectrum of spirituality. Leaders must lead from a position of strength. You can do this by allowing your workers to live out their true selves at work.

  1. Pargament, K. I. (1997). The psychology of religion and coping. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
  2. Dale, E. S. (1991). Bringing heaven down to earth: A practical spirituality of work. New York, NY: Peter Lang.
  1. Kendall, M. H. (2012). Workplace spirituality and the motivational power of meaningful work: An experimental  http://search.proquest.com/docview/1008915951?accountid=7374



Yves Johnson is a Speaker an Author.  He has written two books and a varied collection of articles and blogs. He is the President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries and CEO of CornerStone Leadership Consulting.  He’s a sought out speaker and offers a wide range of leadership and development seminars for both Faith Based and non-Faith Based organizations. You can find his books at http://ow.ly/B4aGp

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