12 Evidences of Stinky Pride

If humility is knowing yourself, than pride is not knowing yourself. People who don't know themselves invent charicatures--scarecrow images of themselves--to project to the world.

It is much easier to recognize pride than humility. It is the people who don't know themselves--don't know their strengths or their weaknesses--that get really threatened if someone should reveal their scarecrow for what it really is. Prideful people lash out at others to make their scarecrows seem even better.

Twelve ways to recognize pride in yourself:

1. You hate someone because they might be better than you.
2. You love insulting people.
3. You hog the conversation.
4. You criticize other people's work.
5. You frown at someone because they're good looking.
6. You never try anything new because you're afraid to fail.
7. You have all the answers.
8. You whine when things don't go your way.
9. You get really depressed or angry when you don't get the praise from others you think you deserve.
10. You are overly concerned about your physical appearance or money.
11. You want to keep up with the Joneses--having the best house, the best car, the best clothes, the latest gadgets.
12. You don't like anything I just said.

So what's the cure? Take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and then go back to my previous post on humility.

12 Secrets of Humble People

Humility is important to marketing. But what the hell is it? I mean, come on, everyone preaches, "Be humble," but nobody tells you how.

So here it is. The ultimate definition: Humility is knowing yourself. That's it. Plain and simple.

Of course, when you know yourself, you realize a few things.

  1. You are not God's gift to the world.
  2. You don't know everything.
  3. You cannot survive alone.
  4. There is more than one way to do something.
  5. Someone else might have the answers you are looking for.
  6. Failing isn't the end of the world.

And you realize something else:

  1. You do have something to offer the world.
  2. You do know some things.
  3. You can survive through troubled times.
  4. The way you do things just might be a pretty good way to do something.
  5. Other people can be a lot of fun.
  6. Failure is the path to success.

It boils down to this. A truly humble person celebrates life. They celebrate themselves and their accomplishments with the same heart that they celebrate strangers and elephants and art and coffee and good movies and great books and little children and dancing. And sex. They definitely celebrate sex.

From the Mouth of Babes

Children make such wonderful writing material.

My littlest daughter--she's three years old--came running out of her bedroom at the end of naptime wearing nothing but her diaper.

"Where's you clothes?" I said.

"I'm naked," she says, "because I'm a boy."

"You're a boy?"

"Yes, I'm a boy shine-shess."

"A what?"

"A boy shine-shess."

"And boy shine-shesses don't have clothes?"


And what may I ask is a boy shine-shess? A scientist. (If it wasn't for TJ, I wouldn't have figured it out.)

So why is it that boy scientists don't wear clothes? I have no idea. Beats me.

What goes on in children's heads? Hmm, I'd really like to know.

1st Marketing Strategy: Being Humble

I've been thinking (and reading) a lot about marketing--what it is and how to do it. I'm noticing some patterns or common themes between different authors, and I'm gonna just say a few thoughts on the topic. It's almost more of a way for me to format the mumbo-jumbo in my mind. So here goes...

I think the most important thing to have as a marketer of one's own self is humility.

I have this acquaintance (I was gonna say friend, but that'd be lying) who knows how to talk big. She can paint a picture about herself that makes her seem so competent and capable. I know this because I worked with her. And I knew how incompetent and incapable and ignorant she really was. So much so that I'm wondering who she slept with to get her MBA.

She always knew something about everything. She was the expert on finances, construction, children, education, politics, business, banking, management, health care, or whatever else we discussed.

She has a daughter, aged 13. I have three daughters, ages 7, 5, and 3. Who has more experience with young girls? I do. And mine's more recent. That never stopped her from spouting to everyone what she thought she knew.

OK, I do have a point here. Something more than just a tirade against someone I didn't like much. She taught me something: when you talk too much about yourself and what you know, people walk away feeling like they never connected with you.

As a writer, I need to market myself, not just my writing. I have to share who I am with others, but not at their expense. I can't be the one with all the answers, because if there is nothing to share, give and take, then there's nothing that the other will want. People want to feel important. They want to be heard. They want to be known.

Fans want to feel like you know them. Not that they know you.

You can't give that with your mouth open. You can't give that while you're showing off how much you know. It's the listeners that make good managers, good salesmen, and good negotiators.

So let this be a lesson to me: Shut your mouth, Rita, for five minutes, and let someone else have a chance to speak.

More on humility:
10 Secrets of Humble People
12 Evidences of Stinky Pride
Humility Marketing Resources

Other Marketing Articles:
2nd Marketing Strategy: Being Naked
3rd Marketing Strategy: Being Persistent

Recommended Marketing Books:
Purple Cow by Seth Godin

Daughter of the Goddess, Part III - Priestess

This short story is part 3 of the Daughter of the Goddess series. You can read part 1 here.

“Peaches, I’m yer mum now,” the woman says.

The little girl looks up. The idea frightens her. If this woman is her mum, will she be mean now? Mums are always mean. They have to be so that they can teach their little girls to be good. It is important to be good.

The woman puts her arms around Peaches and lifts her chin. “As yer mum, I’ll be a-taking you to the priestess. It’ll be my right to give you to the goddess if you be my daughter.”

Peaches’s hands shake. The woman doesn’t want her. The woman won’t keep her. “Please no,” she whispers.

“You won’t be a slave, little love,” the woman keeps talking. “And you will live here. They will be edjicating you, and ye can visit me everyday.”

Everyday. Peaches feels her heart jump and turn inside. She’s not quite sure how her heart could move like that, but it’s a nice feeling. Everyday, she can come to the woman, sit upon her lap, and eat biscuits and honey. “Everyday?” Her voice comes out as more of a squeak than a whisper. She bites her lip and looks back down at her toes. She shouldn’t make so much noise. The woman might change her mind.

“Yes, m’love. Everyday.”

Everyday. Peaches hugs her. She isn’t quite sure where her arms are supposed to go—she’s never hugged someone and no one’s hugged her—so it’s more of a wild flinging of arms. And then, frightened, she pulls away and looks up at the woman. Did she go too far? Will the woman be angry? But no, her face is soft and friendly, and all those little creases on her face seem like laughter.

The woman stands and takes Peaches hand in her own, and out the door they go. Peaches ducks behind the woman’s skirt, to hide, but the woman gently pulls her out and leads her. It feels so safe, her little hand in the big one. It’s warm and inviting and comforting. She’d like it to last forever.

Peaches wants to stay in the kitchen with the woman. She doesn’t want to go to the priestess. But she’ll trust. She’ll trust this hand to lead her. The people in the square—she can’t see their faces, just their legs—press in around her, but that hand never lets go. Up the stairs, it takes her and through the golden doors that stand open.

Then she goes all the way up to the where the priestess stands. Peaches looks up at her, the long robes and the stern face. That face looks as though it will bite her if her whisper gets too loud or she eats too much or shows just how useless she is. Looking back down at her feet, she remembers that she wants to be a good girl. She shouldn’t have looked the priestess in the face. The girl’s hands shake and shake, and even as she balls them into fists, she can’t make them stop. Please, oh please, don’t hurt me.

The woman beside her kneels down and tugs on Peaches hand to do the same. She stumbles to the ground quickly, wishing the ground would open up and eat her. The earth would be warm and soft and safe. She could curl up and sleep, and nobody would ever touch her again.

“Rise, children of the goddess.”

Peaches feels the woman standing beside her, but Peaches can’t move. Not listening to the priestess would surely get her a beating on her back or her head. The lashes on her neck were still sore. But try as she might, her legs weren’t a-listening to her. They were too heavy like the big wooden chair at home that she had to move to scrub the floor underneath. It would never budge, no matter how hard she pushed. She’d always had to ask for help. Useless, they’d tell her and hit her.

She doesn’t want to be useless. She wants the priestess to want her, to think she’s worth keeping. She squeezes her eyes shut and pleads with the goddess. Don’t hurt me. I will be useful.

Hands touch her gently. It must be the woman. She hears her voice, a-talking to the priestess. Someone lifts her up, and she finds herself looking into the face of the priestess.

“Oh,” she cries and scrambles away. It was only just a little more than a whisper. And she regrets making so much noise. The priestess will think she is a bad girl. What do they do to bad girls? Will they hurt her? Throw her out? Please don’t hurt me.

“Child, I will not hurt you,” the priestess whispers. The priestess must be a good girl. She whispers. And her voice is so soft. Peaches would like to sound soft and whisper like that. Then maybe no one would hurt her. Then maybe they’ll like her. She shuts her eyes. Please make me good. I will be useful. I promise.

She feels hands a-lifting her and a-carrying her, but she keeps her eyes shut and prays harder. She prays so hard that her lips move, but no sound comes out. I’ll be good. I’ll be useful. I promise.

The shock of a cold wet floor under her body forces her eyes open in surprise. She’s surrounded by priestesses. Staring at her. She wants to run and hide, but there is no gap between the women. She tries to push her way through, but to no affect.

They pull at her patchwork dress, and she cries out. The tears in her eyes are so thick, she can barely see. She pushes, scratches, runs, kicks. Screams. She has never screamed before, but she does now, desperate to get away from them. No! Don’t touch me. Don’t hurt me.

A patch of cloth is thrown onto the cold, stone floor. But there, the patches writhe like squirmy leeches with tiny arms and legs, their bodies fat and their mouths squealing. Someone steps on it. It screams as its body explodes from the pressure. Brown blood and red.

Peaches stops.

She just stares.

She isn’t screaming anymore.

More patches are pulled from her. More bodies lay upon the floor. A foul odor clutches at her like a hand clenched at her throat. She gags, wretching bile and phlegm. Worms wriggle in her vomit.

Naked and spent, she slumps onto the stone and shuts her eyes. Something feels different, she realizes. Her stooped back is straight. The bones don’t ache. Her stomach doesn’t churn. She sighs and smiles. Now she will sleep, Peaches decides.

But hands push and pull her, making her stand. Peaches stumbles, but they hold her up and drag her until she plunges into a vat of warm liquid. It’s not water. It’s so smooth on her skin. Oil. The hands push her under. She flaps her arms, trying to break free, but the more she struggles, the deeper she slips under the surface.

Her lungs burn and she fights to get free. To get a breath. A single breath. She opens her mouth to scream and breathes the oil into her lungs. It burns her tongue, her throat, her lungs. It flows through her, melting her body with its heat. She opens her eyes and the oil stings them.

She no longer wants to breathe, and the water is dark as she slips into the recesses of the pool. There is a light in the distance. She lifts her hand toward it. Her farewell gesture. I would’ve been useful. I would’ve tried.

The light comes closer. A woman, in the midst of the light, her long hair floating in the water around her, reaches for her. Peaches reaches her hand out in return. It doesn’t matter if she dies. Or if the woman leaves her in the pool of oil. What matters is that she touches her finger.

That light. The light will heal. The light will make all the pain go far away. It will warm her and comfort her. She must touch it

As their fingers meet, Peaches feels the light moving into her, spreading slowly up her arm. She smiles. The woman smiles back. Stretching out her arms, she embraces Peaches and brings her to the surface. More hands lift her out and cover her in a soft robe.

Her hands seem to glow, and her toes are clean. I’m clean. No one had ever bothered to bathe Peaches before. Now it felt as though she mattered. She looks around for the woman in the pool, but only priestesses are here now. She studies her clean hands, how they glow, how soft they are, how clean. It was like that woman, that light, was inside her, glowing through her skin.

“What’s your name, Child?” It’s not a whisper. But then it’s the tone that matters. The voice is gentle and kind. Not quiet and good. But Peaches doesn’t want to be quiet and good anymore.

She lifts her chin. “My name is Peaches,” she says aloud and looks the priestess in the face. Peaches smiles.

“Welcome, Peaches, priestess of Araphia.”

You can read Part 4 here.

Racism Part III

Reader Charles Gramlich made the comment about my article Racism Part II:

Unfortunate how easy even children find reasons to divide themselves.

Tragic, isn't it? When my kids were younger (toddlers/preschoolers), I watched children of all colors play together, completely unaware and unconcerned of the differences between them. So what happens in the two years between preschool and first grade?

It really is an important question that we, as authors, must ask ourselves. It is in understanding people that we can understand the characters of our books and the plots that unfold relating to those characters. So I would like to put forth a few ideas that may have helped to form this young boy's perspectives on the relations between blacks and whites.

It all started with his parents, I believe. Or rather to be more fair, I should say that I suspect. He wasn't allowed to play in our yard for the longest time. The girls were too young to play in the front, so they'd invite him to come play on their jungle gym in the back. Excited, he'd run inside and ask his mom. And then he'd always come out and say no. He wasn't allowed.

Then something happened one day. We were taking our kids for a bike ride around the block and they wanted to ask their friend to come with them. He went to ask his mom. She came out the door, looking like she was ready to start a fight. Until she saw me standing there.

She was shocked.

About as shocked as her husband was when my husband came to help him shovel the snow out of his driveway one winter day. As if he were thinking, why is this white man helping me?

She stopped. Not saying anything. And just stared at me.

"We're going for a bike ride. Could your son come with us?"

"Oh, yes. Yes. Of course. He knows he's allowed to ride his bike."

She turned and went inside. And I realized that she had expected that I would reject her son as a playmate for my children. She wouldn't let him play with our kids because she thought I would disapprove.

After that, there was never a problem with him coming over. She never stopped him again.

But I still wonder, what did she say to him before? Perhaps she said, "No, you can't play with those white kids." Perhaps she said, "Those white people don't want a black boy in their yard." Likely, she wouldn't want her son to face rejection for his color. She didn't want him to be hurt. As she had been hurt. She wanted to protect him. So she taught him to reject before he was rejected first.

Fear. The planting of the seeds of hatred.

Fear of rejection. Fear of things that are different. Fear of losing jobs to immigrants. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of disease. These are the things that build prejudices.

Yes, we all have fears. And it is a tragic thing that we pass them on to our children.

So think a bit about your own writing. How can you apply fear to character development? Because all cultures, all peoples, and all stories contain the element of fear. 

Check out Sir Pierre's blog, containing an excerpt of his writing. Though he has a bit of the talking-heads syndrome, the story is a bit intriguing.

I invite you to post a comment about how you've used racial tension in your own stories.

Book Review: Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

by Annette Curtis Klause

Flames shot high, turning the night into carnival light. Sparks took the place of stars. The century-old inn was a silhouette fronting hell, as everything Vivian knew was consumed in fire.

Talk about annoying purple prose! I don't think this author knew what plain-speaking is. Line after line of description, over colored and annoyingly full of words nobody uses today--phrases like "shivered deliciously" and "obeyed slavishly" and "tangled tawny hair." I rolled my eyes.

Especially at the beginning.

If I wasn't listening to the book on tape (on my 2 hours a day of driving to and from work), I might not have noticed how annoying the purple prose was. It was a good lesson in what not to do and why. Oh, I always try to write in plain language. I try to make my descriptions matter of fact and useful. But now I know I'll be more faithful to this endeavor.

And then the girl gets this crush on some school boy, and the romance was so melodramatic. Teeny-boppery. I rolled my eyes some more. In the movie, I had liked Aidan. In the book, I hated him. He was shallow and weak. And I just wanted to shake Vivian and tell her to wake up. 

But then things began to change, and the book took on some depth that I didn't expect from the way it all started. This was no teeny-bopper romance after all. And Vivian did learn some important things about life. The kinds of things all teenagers need to learn. Like accepting who you are. Like not trying to fit into the mold. Like loyalty and love and family bond. Like what romance is really all about. Like responsibility and listening to your elders.

Hmm, now I understand what the author was doing from the beginning--setting the stage for character growth. Well done, Ms. Klause. Well done indeed.

Then when I got to the last track on the last disc and the reader said, "The End," I didn't want it to be over. Melodroma and purple prose put aside, the characters were well developed, the story well rounded, and the author had captured, not only my interest, but my heart.

I'd give it 4.5 stars out of 5. You can order Blood and Chocolate here on

Daughter of the Goddess, Part II - Peaches

This short story is part 2 of the Daughter of the Goddess Series. You can read part 1 here.

“Now, now, little tot, don’tcha be a-crying now. You trust Mistress Howl. I’ll be a-fixing this.” Warm hands lead her inside and guide her to the wooden table. Patches peeks about at the room—it’s safe to do so, for the woman has moved on to the other side of the kitchen. A few people are mixing and a-baking, but when they look at her, she casts her eyes down. She wants them to know she’ll be a good girl. So they won’t throw her out. Mum always said that when she goes to the goddess, she’d better be useful or they won’t want her.

“Do you like butter and honey with your biscuits, lovey?” The voice is so gentle. Like the trees. It makes her think of a soft breeze, blowing through her hair, drying her tears, cooling the sting of a slap on her face.

Patches doesn’t know what to say. She was never allowed to ask for anything. She was given her gruel and expected to eat it. If the bread was stale and the apples turned to mush, they were tossed her way. “I’m not hungry,” she whispers.

Two arms pick her up, set her on a lap, and hold her close. “Now don’t you be a-lying to me, angel. Nothing but a bag of bones, you are. So let Mistress Howl feed you something yummy.” Patches can barely see the hand offering the biscuit through the tears in her eyes. “Here is a bite, little bird. You don’t have to take it. Just open your mouth.” The hands move across her face and hair, pushing the hair out of her face and wiping away the tears. A piece of biscuit, warm and soft with something sweet, is put in her mouth by that gentle hand.

“What’s yer name, love?”

Patches shakes her head.

“What do they call you?”

She leans her head close and whispers. “Once a man—” She blushes. She was never allowed to speak of Mum’s visitors. She wasn’t even supposed to be seen by them. She’d gotten whipped real bad for that. “—called me Patches.”

“No name?”

Patches looks down at her dirty, little feet and shakes her head. “It’s unlucky to name someone who’s gonna die,” she whispers. It’s the most she’s ever said. She glances up at the woman to see if she’s in trouble. All those little creases and furrows are standing out on her brow. Patches quickly looks back down at her feet. If she’s a-frowning, does that mean she’s gonna hit her?

The hand gently strokes her hair, pushing it behind her hair. “Let me tell you something, little peaches. We’re all gonna die someday,” she says. The hand moves to her chin and lifts her face. “And lucky it is that I get to name such a pretty little girl like you.” The woman smiles. “My, such blue eyes. Clear as a summer day.”

Looking the woman in the face, Patches swallows the lump in her throat. Her little hands shake, and she tries to pull away. But those hands hold her firmly. “Peaches.” The woman nods. “Yes, you are as sweet as a little peach pie.”

Peaches? Her name is Peaches? She doesn’t really know what a peach is, but she likes the way it sounds when the woman says it. It kinda rolls off her mouth like the something sweet. Like the honey biscuit she just ate. She glances down at the woman’s hand, which are now empty. Peaches’ stomach growls. “Are you still hungry, Peaches? Carly, another biscuit please, and don’t ye be shy with the butter. This’un needs some fat on her bones.”

Peaches forgets to watch her feet as she looks about the kitchen. The cooks bustle about. Some singing. Some whistling. And everyone smiling. At her. And their eyes sparkle. Like sunlight glinting on the stream. They seem to promise her joy, just as her childhood friend had sang to her. She smiles back. It is just a little tug on the corners of her mouth. And then she ducks her head into the crook of the woman’s arm.

“There, there, Peaches. Just a wave of shyness, have ye?” The hand strokes the back of her head. It makes Peaches feel safe. That little smile is growing inside her. She can feel it. It’s as soft and warm, just as the woman is. It makes her want to cry. Soft tears. Gentle ones. The kind she had when the trees sang her to sleep.

“Here ye go, mistress.”

Peaches hears the sound of a plate being set on the table. She peeks over the woman’s shoulder. Never before had she seen a plate so full—at least, not one set for her. The butter was melting into the biscuits, and honey swirled across the top. And those strong, comforting arms lift her up and set her on the bench. “Don’tcha be shy now. It’s all for you.”

Peaches picks up one of the biscuits, so soft it crumbles in her hand. She puts the piece in her mouth and looks up at the woman with a smile. A full smile, one that shows all her little teeth. And a tear trickles down her face. The woman smiles and wipes the tear away.

“How old are ye, lovey?”

“Five harvests.” That’s what she remembers Mum saying. When she was five harvests, she’d go to the goddess. So that must be how old she is.

“My, my, you’re that old? But so tiny.”

Peaches is confused. Was that a question? Is she supposed to say something? If so, what does the woman want her to say? She glances up. The brow is smooth now. But tears—lots of them—fall down her face. They drip down her chin and onto the woman’s lap. She wants to ask why the woman is a-crying, but that’d be asking fer trouble. She looks down at her dirty little feet and remembers that gentle hand wiping away her own tears.

She, her little hands a-shaking, reaches over to wipe the tears. But stops. She feels frozen, stiff as a tree. Her little heart beats like a wild drum. And her stomach clenches into awful knots. “Can I wipe your tears?” she whispers.

The woman nods. And Peaches reaches up, wiping the woman’s face, and says, “There. It’ll be just fine. You’ll see.”

You can read part 3 here.

Daughter of the Goddess, Part I - Patches

This short story is part 1 of the Daughter of the Goddess series.

Patches clutches her worn blanket, folded around some stale bread and a few rotten apples, with both of her small hands. It’s all she has—save for the rags she wears. If she drops it...

She mustn’t. She must be good. Good girls are quiet and useful. She promises herself that she will be.

“Stop dragging yer feet like a dainty princess.” Mum grabs her hand and drags her down the path. “You ain’t some prissy little thing to walk along with ginger feet. The day’s a-wasting, and I mean to be home by night-come.” She tugs Patches’ arm so that it hurts, but Patches keeps her mouth shut. Good girls are quiet. “Right happy, I’ll be to have my hands free of ye.”

“Yes, Mum,” she whispers. She shouldn’t speak louder than a whisper. Good little girls don’t shout. Patches takes two or three steps for each of her mum’s, and still her short little legs can’t keep up. A farmer’s cart splashes mud. The rocks under her naked feet stab her. People stare at the little girl wearing rags. But Patches doesn’t bother with any of that. She’s as likely to be dirtier than that farmer’s pig, and rocks are nothing compared to mum.

And looking at people would only annoy her mum. She’s not supposed to be noticed. She moves behind her mother and hangs her head and watches her mum’s feet with their soft padded shoes drum a quick beat.

“Useless as a bug,” the mother continues. “Why, fer the life of me, I ever made that bargain to save yer life is beyond me. Nothing but a waste of space, you are. But a bargain with a goddess is for keeping. And you’s old enough.”

Patches listens. Quietly. She hates being useless. But try as she might, she’s never done nothing worth a lick of good. “I’m sorry, Mum.”

“As you should be,” Mum says. “Sorry I’s ever had you. That be certain.”

Mum pauses at the top of the rise, and Patches walks right in to her. “Don’t you be bumpin’ me, you whiny brat. I brotcha into this world. I can take ye out.” She grabs Patches arm and pulls her to her side. “And the world be a-thanking me too.”

The rise in the road overlooks more houses than Patches has ever seen put together in one place. So tall. As tall as trees. And all those people a-milling about like so many tiny ants marching about their nest. She wants to go home. Grammum wouldn’t be happy to see her—Grammum never wanted a useless girl like her—but it’d be safer. And when no one wants her, she could hide in a tree. The trees are always kind. They whisper sweet words. She falls asleep there, after her beating, listening.

“Dontcha be crying.” Mum tugs her arm angrily and slaps her face. “Ye should be thanking the goddess for sparing yer life and letting you be her slave.” Patches bites her lip and looks down at the stone road at her feet. She must be thankful.

“Yes, Mum.”

“And dontcha be calling me that no more. I’m done with you.”

Patches nods her head, not knowing what to say. For “Yes, Mum” is all she ever says. Anything more is a-wanting a belt across her back. So Patches just keeps her mouth shut and follows. Down the hill. Through a gate. Into the crowded streets. So many people. Pushing. Shoving. The tears stream down her face. She can’t stop crying. She should be thankful. Good girls are thankful.

They stop in a big open place, and in the center, there is a tub where water jumps high into the sky and splashes back down. Patches peeks at it through her lashes. It would be fun to dance in the water. If no one were a-looking. She thinks of her stream at home with its bubbling chortle. It sings to her that it will give her joy. And it always kept its promise.

“They’re not a-wanting a slave at their front door.” Mum takes her hand and marches her away from the jumping water, around the corner, down a narrow street, to a small wooden door. She raps, and round face with rosy cheeks peers out.

“I’m a-sorry, my lady,” she says. “But we’re not buying nothing now. Come again tomorrow.”

Patches feels harsh hands push her forward. “I made a promise, and here she is. The goddess can have her.”

The brow of that round face bunches up in a dozen pretty little folds. Patches likes those creases and folds and the thoughtful eyes that go with them. She forgets that she’s not supposed to stare. It draws attention. And good girls don’t draw attention. Her mum’s hand pushes her head back down, and her hands shake, knowing the beating that’s coming.

“I’m not understanding, my lady. These are the kitchens. If you give your daughter to the goddess, you must present her to the priestess in the sanctuary.”

“She’s not worth such an honor. She’s to be a slave for the goddess.”

Staring down at the woman’s feet, Patches listens to her mum’s feet echoing down the empty street. She’s alone. A slave. Unwanted. Unworthy.


You can read part 2 here.

Life Aches

Today is the first day of my third week at my new job. It is a mixed blessing. I am thankful for the income and all, but the two weeks I had home, unemployed, were heaven.

For those two weeks, I was a great mom. I started my day by putting them through their chores, and it wasn't a fight because I praised them so much for their lopsided beds that they made and for their mostly picked-up toys and for doing their homework that they needed very little prodding. Then we did something special--a park, swimming at the Y, a picnic lunch in the backyard, or a movie. I had plenty of time to read to them and hug them and kiss them, and they were all smiles and sweetness. They bloomed. And I got to be part of it.

I have over two hours to drive each day, and last Friday, with traffic, it was a total of 3 1/2 hours. When you add the 8 hours of working, it is a long, long day. When I get home, I am tired and parenting is the last thing I want to do. Let alone write or blog or exercise or do anything to take care of myself. I eat dinner, put the kids to bed, grab a shower, and tumble into bed myself. And all that made heaven wonderful is forgotten.

What aches the most is watching the girls diminish. Rowena, my middle child, looks at me with these big sorrowful eyes when I come home. She just wants me to hold her and never let go. And Kaylee hides and refuses to join me for reading with her sisters. Only Makani with her independence seems to be just fine. Except that she wants to talk my ear off when I get home. She tells me about every detail about her day.

So I am struggling to learn balance in my life. Balance for myself, my family, my work, and my writing. I wrote advice on nurturing the muse, and I'm trying to follow my wisdom. It means that I cannot write as much as I want to, but the writing will always be there when the children are asleep or when I wake up in the morning. I refuse to run myself ragged as I did at my last job--I'm not supergirl, you know.

I force myself to squeeze in some exercise, and I go to bed early. And I cry inside that I can't do it all.

Racism Part II

"I'm going to give him this flower." She had plucked a lilac off my bush. The neighbor boy was her intended target. The one she plans on marrying someday. But he doesn't like her because she's white.

"OK," I say. I think the kid is just a little overwhelmed by her attention. 7-year-old boys still think girls have cooties. But some things are better left to experience. She needs to learn for herself what boys are like.

She gave him the flower, but his friends were there, teasing him. He tore it up, and she whimpered. Then he punched her in the eye.

This isn't the first time he has been downright rude to her. I watched them play catch, and he never let her actually catch the ball. He'd throw it up high, straight up, so he could be the one to catch it. If it got anywhere near her, he'd knock her over to get there first. His knee even hit her in the head as he scrambled over her. I was sure he did it on purpose.

Especially since earlier, when she asked him to come play, he was saying to his friends, "I don't want to play with that white girl."

After he punched her in the eye, I figured it was time for some parental intervention. First I talked to my kids. I gave them a quick history and science lesson. About melanin. About skin color and different physical traits. About Africa. About slavery. About the Civil War. My oldest is six, and we hadn't gotten that far in our history lessons.

And maybe I didn't really want to tell her about all that. I liked my child's innocence. She doesn't see that skin color makes any difference than eye color or hair color. It's just another thing that makes us different and unique and beautiful.

I talked to the neighbor boy about it too. Only with him, I said, "You know, now we have a black president. But President Obama has a black father and a white mother. He is a symbol that when blacks and whites work together in friendship, they can make good things happen."

He just stared at me. I'm not sure what he thought about what I was saying, so I just plunged ahead. (That's the problem with Sagittarians. When they put one foot in, they stick the other in too.) So I said, "And we like having you here, but we wanted to be treated with kindness and respect."

He still didn't say anything, and I don't think he's been to our yard since. Maybe I've planted a seed to break the pattern of racism in his life. Or maybe I've just alienated him and prevented a friendship from flourishing. I'm hoping for the first.

POV Part V - hoW to write from one perspective

Posts in the Five W's of POV series:

Writing from one perspective has a lot to do with pacing. By adding the reactions, thoughts, emotions, personal opinions, and observations of one character to prose, you make your readers a part of the story. They can now identify with this character. They understand how they think and what motivates them, and how they are going to react. 

Take a look at this paragraph I wrote in first-person for my coming book Never Forget:

I took another step, careful to avoid the colorful leaves strewn across the forest floor. My brown cotton skirt was balled into my hand so that I didn't make any extra noise. I held my breath. My heart raced wildly in my chest. I figured that he'd had to hear that, but he didn't move. He just sat against the tree at the edge of the woods, humming a familiar tune. I grinned. Maybe this time I'll actually surprise him. When I was just about to jump out from my hiding spot to surprise him, he calmly said, "You might as well come out, Barra. I know you're there."

I started with a line of POV action: "I took another step..." You could use your character's action or a non-POV's action. 

I followed this with a reaction to the action: "I held my breath. My heart raced wildly..." This line should be in the POV's viewpoint. 

Then came a line of thought: "I figured that he had to hear that..."

Followed by a line of more action--this time the non-POV's: "...he didn't move. He just sat there ... humming a tune."

Then another reaction, again it is the POV's viewpoint: "I grinned."

Followed by another thought: "Maybe this time I'll actually surprise him."

Followed by another non-POV action: "...he said, "You might as well come out..."

See the pattern? Reactions and thoughts following actions. Actions can be performed by anyone, but you can always see what the POV is thinking and feeling by their reactions and thoughts. 

But how do you express non-POV's? This paragraph could be an example:

     Mr. Smith frowned at Lucy. He obviously wasn't happy at her picture. But she didn't care. It was her picture, after all. Her art. And if he thought something was wrong, he could just go hang himself. In fact, she told him just that. 
     "You don't like it. Get over it."
     He opened and closed his mouth like he didn't know what to say. Then he turned and walked to another student. Lucy smiled and turned back to her work. Hopefully, that meant he wouldn't bother her again.

I just made that up on the spot, applying action followed by reaction and action. First, I wrote it in first person, then I switched it to third person. You get a hint of what the teacher is thinking based on his actions and the POV's reactions. But in real life, that is all we really know about what someone is really feeling or thinking, from their actions and our opinions.

Now as the author, I know that Mr. Smith actually loves Lucy's work, he loves being a teacher, and he loves art. He remembers the encouragement his own teacher gave him and wants to be that kind of mentor to his students. Especially Lucy because she reminds him of himself. She's just as bitter and cynical as he once was... But he has this nasty habit of frowning as he studies art. It's his "concentration" face. And he doesn't know how to overcome his own shyness to give to someone else what he received from his mentor. But he's determined to try.

If the art teacher was a significant character in the story, then you can switch POV's for the next class. Or when he goes home and talks to his wife. Or maybe he visits his childhood mentor who gives him some wise advice.

And if he isn't a major part of the story, you can have another scene in that same classroom and Lucy learns that she misjudged him. All from Lucy's perspective because he's not important enough to be a POV.

Writing Assignment
I'd love to hear from all of you. Please leave a comment to write a possibility for the teacher's perspective or a new scene from Lucy's. It will be fun to see all the different possibilities.