Kat's Wolf

This was given to me by my friend Kat. I love it.

If you have any wolf pictures that you want me to share with everyone, email me at

Writing the Teenage Perspective

NOTE: I am looking for reader feedback. The three best responses will win copies of Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother.

Fifteen-year-old Matt (names been changed to protect me from angry family members) ramped his skateboard off the roof of his house. "It's his ADD," the parents said. "We can't trust him to go down the block to the park on his bike. We know he'll do something stupid."

Just another three years and that 15-year-old will be on his own. Maybe at college. Maybe at his job. What will those parents do then? Spy on him? Follow him around campus? Ask his boss if he's behaving? In my opinion, it's the desperation to experience life that made him do something so crazy. If everyone wasn't breathing down his neck—don't do this, don't do that, don't get dirty, don't be dangerous and wild and free, and you can't do anything worthwhile because you are just a kid—he wouldn't feel the need to almost kill himself just to feel alive.

I may be 34, but my rebellious teenage angst still motivates much of my life philosophy. Even though I am a parent, I don't believe that one person can ever control another. Parents / teachers / authority figures who try to control only destroy the soul. And I believe it is wrong, wrong, wrong for schools to subjugate students into mindless, empty robots. That's why I home school my kids.

Truth is I don't really feel like I've changed since my teenage years. However, today it's not my parents & teachers but rather responsibility, society, & money that keep me from true freedom. Now I have three little persons who depend on me. Mouths to feed and rent to pay.

I enjoyed Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother. A friend of mine complained that it did not accurately portray the teenage mindset. But what really is the teenage mindset? How do you write it? How do see the world through the eyes of a teenager?

I am looking for reader feedback. I want to hear some thoughts from teenagers and adults alike. As stated above, the three best responses will win a copy of Cory Doctorow's book Little Brother.

Some possible questions to answer:

What makes teenagers different from adults?
What makes them similar?
What motivate(s/d) you?
If you are an adult, writing YA books, how do you accurately portray your characters?
If you are a teenager, what is it that you yearn for?
What books best portray teenagers today?

10 Ways to Off Zola

Some characters are so annoying that you dream up ways to destroy them. Zola from Girl Genius is such a character.

Therefore, I have plotted her demise. Mwahahahaha!

10. Leave her to her "friends" that put her up to this job.

9. Use Agatha's death ray gun on her.

8. Feed her to Von Pinn.

7. Let the castle squash her.

6. Hand her to the lynch mob outside.

5. Put her between Agath and Klaus Wulfenbach. He'll step on her on accident.

4. Send Zeetha after her.

3. Set her in front of a red, blinking button, "Do not push. Ever." She'd be just stupid enough.

2. Make her into a mimmoth toy.

1. Wack GILGAMESH WULFENBACH until he gets his head straightened around and offs her himself.

At least, he'd better.

Who do you want to be?

I've been thinking about this for a while now (well, about a week). It wasn't hard to decide. The decision was made before I even brought the idea up with TJ. If I could be anyone from any genre from any form of media, I would be

Agatha Heterodyne, girl genius.

Why? Because she ...

Aeryn Sun would definitely be my second choice. Instead of tools, she has guns and knows how to use them. But like Agatha, she's in the midst of adventure. I like that.

So who do you want to be?

Interview with Carrie Vaughn

Urban fantasy author Carrie Vaughn has written some awesome books with thick plot and a very fun, lovable character leading the way to turmoil and trouble. Her character Kitty is a werewolf who starts a talk radio show, helping her listeners work through their supernatural problems. And nothing ever goes easy for her.

I devoured the first 5 books in a week and 2 days and paid the price with bleary eyes and grumpiness from lack of sleep for two weeks now. I haven't been that crazy about a book series since--well--Harry Potter. Not that it is anything like Harry Potter. Carrie's got her own style and a very unique story.

Quick Bio: Carrie has written over 30 short stories in science fiction and fantasy magazines, short story anthologies, and internet magazines. She has six books with two more being released early next year. In 2008, she was 20th on the New York Times best-selling list for her book Kitty and the Silver Bullet, and in 2009, she was 13th for Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand.

Note: There is no hand of a dead man in the book Kitty and the Dead Man's Hand. It's a poker term.

So quickly becoming a fan, I contacted Carrie and asked her for an interview. She was such a sweetheart in her reply. I hope you enjoy reading her answers as much as I did:

1. What do you plan to do when you finish the Kitty series? Sort of a where-are-you-taking-yourself question.

I'm going to continue the Kitty series as long as I keep getting ideas. I'm already working on other projects. My first young adult novel, Voices of Dragons, will be out in March 2010, and I have a couple of stand-alone fantasy novels in the works. I want to be an author who writes lots of different things.

2. How did you find the motivation to write and find a publisher before you were a known and established author?

I wanted to get published. That was the motivation. I wrote every day, submitted stories all the time, and worked hard at making my writing better, because I wanted to get published and make a living writing. I had to do the work to reach the goal.

3. Do you argue with your characters? Who wins that fight?

I wouldn't call it arguing with my characters, and it isn't a matter of winning a fight, really. It's about making the story make sense -- it has to be the right character for the story, and the plot has to work according to what that character would do. If I start getting off track or doing something that isn't true to the character, the story starts falling apart and I need to change something, either the character or the plot. My way of writing is kind of an ongoing process of constant revision and refining, making sure all the pieces come together in a satisfying way.

You can follow Carrie on her blog Filling the Well, and you can attempt to win a copy of her 1st book by entering my Werewolf Poetry Contest by August 1st, 2009.

4th Marketing Strategy: Being Friendly

We're sitting at a table in a little, family restaurant/bakery that serves gluten-free pizza, sandwiches, and baked goods. Oh such, yummy, yummy baked goods! * Salivating *

Then someone at another table strikes up a conversation with us. That's the kind of restaurant it is. Most people are regulars. I mean, it's the only gluten-free bakery around, and if you need to live gluten-free like us, that's where you go. It's small and it's family owned and it's customers all have one thing in common. We generally have information we can share to become healthier, and that makes it all likely for someone to talk to you.

This guy talks to us about why he lives gluten-free, about our kids, about books, about life. And then he drops this line, "So do you go to church anywhere?"

Oooooooh, is that why you're talking to us? An agenda!

Gee thanks, mister. I feel so, so, so-- I don't know. Used? Unwanted? I'd make a good pew warmer, is that it?

It was like talking to an overly-friendly used-car salesman. Or a worker in a furniture store, who elbows you and winks and says, "Go to our branch and tell Bob to give you the special. Tell him Jim sent you." Right. Whatever.

So when networking, connecting, being friendly, leaving notes on blogs, sending friend invites, sharing tips, joining conversations, whatever, don't, don't, don't center everything around what you want to sell! People can spot a fake from a mile away and generally run screaming.

So from your friendly, neighborhood spiderman--er, I mean friend--here's some friendly advice on being friendly:

1. Join conversations and DON'T mention your books.
2. Read other people's books and show interest.
3. Be helpful with your criticism and your praise.
4. Be silly and talk nonsense on forums. Be natural.
5. Promote others.
6. Make someone else famous.
7. Be a blessing.
8. Give someone else a chance to shine.
9. Ask questions rather than give all the answers.
10. ___________________________________. I don't know. You fill in the blank.

10 Ways to Handle Criticism Like a Pro

Maybe you write a book, and it's awful. You receive rejection letter after rejection letter, but you insist your book is good. In fact, it's great. So you self-publish, ignoring all that criticism and advice from experts. One week out, you get hate mail and horrible reviews.

Or maybe you write a book in a week, and it's wonderful. "It's perfect," the publisher says. "No need even for editing." It's sold to the masses and you are loved by adoring fans. Your dreams come true.

"We want you to write another one!" publishers and fans say.

You sit down to write another. But that blank page stares back at you. How did you create that magic the first time? You don't know. Right now, you'd rather have the earth swallow you up than to reveal that you're a fraud. So you fade away into nothingness, afraid.

Criticism prepares us for failure and success. So welcome criticism early on and allow it to burn away the dross of your writing, leaving the gold. Here's how I react to rejection from publishers and criticism from readers:

1. Frame it. Put it on your wall and show it off like a diploma.

2. Celebrate. You just accomplished something worth criticizing. Better to be criticized than to hide.

3. Thank your critic. Roy L. Pickering was so mature about my review of his short story that he grew in my esteem. When I'm famous, I want to follow his example.

4. Accept and ignore it, all at the same time. That means acknowledge it but don't take it personal. It's about your work, not you.

5. Learn. It makes you better. Even if they're wrong, stop and consider it from all angles. Maybe you stumbled on some truth by instinct. By putting yourself through the mental exercise, you bring that

6. Study. Criticism makes me a perpetual student, one that is always honing the craft.

7. Apply. Practice ways to deepen and grow and build and change to make a better writer out of yourself.

8. Throw a hissy and threaten to quit. Wait, what did I just say? Yeah, throw a fit. You're human. At least, I assume so. If you think about quitting and decide to keep trying instead, you've just strengthened your commitment to pursuing your dream. Hell and high water won't steal it from you. Besides, you want to get it out of your system before anyone knows your name. Could you imagine doing that in public when you get your first hate letter?

9. Remember that great writing is a learning process. Who was it that said that art is never finished, merely abandoned? There are so many stories to tell. Maybe next one will be better.

10. Send your critic a love letter. On ProBlogger, Gala Darling from iCiNG says this:

Another thing to keep in mind is not to feed the trolls! When someone comes by & tells you your blog sucks, you suck, your dog sucks & man, has anyone ever told you you suck?, don’t take the bait! Most of the time, these are just bitter people looking for a fight.

Read here to see how she handled it. I wish I had that kind of grace!

So tell me some of the criticisms you've received and how you would handle it. Did you pout? Throw things? Cheer? Or scream? How did it make you better?

Death By Chocolate

Imagine this:

You have given up bread, brownies, cake, ice cream, pasta, but there is one thing that you get to keep that makes it all worth while: chocolate. Rich. Dark. You know how it tingles with sensation. You take a morsel and wrap your tongue around it. It melts, giving you a shiver of pleasure down your back. You smile. This is the life. This takes all that you've given up worth it.

Then that strange sensation spreads up your body. You feel dizzy as if the chocolate was drugged with some kind of sleeping pill. Your neck tightens and your head is fuzzy. People talk to you, but it seems so hazy. Your children ask for you to read a book, and you sigh but say okay. At least they're not wanting you to run and play because now all you want to do is lay down on the couch. Your eyes slide over the words, going out of focus. On the edges, darkness creeps in.

Midsentence, you fall asleep. "Mommy! Wake up."

"I think my chocolate is poisoned," I tell my husband.

"Yes, dear." He shakes his head. "Just go to sleep. It'll all be better in the morning."

As the world goes black around me, I think that perhaps I should boycott Ghiradelli.

Got any Werewolf Art?

I drew this years ago based on two pictures: one on our living room & one in a calendar. It's actually pretty good, I think. Would you believe I have no talent and no training as an artist? Somedays, my husband looks over my shoulder when I'm doodling and gives me a bit of advice. This picture was born out of one of those times. "Don't try to make it look 3-D," he said. "You are working from a 2-D picture. Just draw what you see."

So I did.

Anybody have pictures to share? Email me at and I'll post it for everybody to see.

Got Any Werewolf Short Stories?

Chatting on goodreads about my upcoming contest, I learned that Swedish author Malin Larsson wrote a werewolf short story for Hub Magazine. I've read some of Malin's work, which I have greatly enjoyed. Check it out.

If you've written any werewolf stories and have posted them online, please leave a comment below to share it with the rest of us.

Possible Terrorist Attacks in Pocatello

Police continue to investigate the incidents that have surrounded the quiet countryside just outside of Pocatello, Idaho.

On June 27, 2009, an unknown group descended on a farm, wreaking havoc in what started as pranks but turned into a possible deadly situation when emergency vehicles were rushed to the seen to put out fires. By then, the culprits had already disappeared.

"Everything was just a mess," local firefighter John Twain told reporters. "They plucked the chickens, shaved the sheep, and smeared all the animals in manure. The kind of behavior you'd expect of a bunch of stupid kids. But then we found this." Smith had a pile of evidence which included bombs, a sonic cavitation device, and a wad of cash. "We think that they were paid by Al Qaeda to destroy American peace."

However, the damage does not end there. Samuel Clemens, the owner of the farm that was attacked, lost his home in the resulting fire as well as his livelihood. The farmyard was flooded, the animals killed, and the fields destroyed. "Hey, at least, they left my barn in tact," Clemmons said bitterly. "They painted it pink, but at least it's still standing. It gives me a place to sleep while I get this trouble straightened out."

"I think it was some sort of satanic cult activity," said local farmer who refused to reveal her name. She had been away on vacation and is thankful that her home remained unharmed. She gestured toward the inflatable pyramid with the tractor inside. "That looks like a temple to me, and with the snakes and the African bees, it seems more like some kind of psychotic ritual."

Zoo Boise officials have already picked up the stolen elephants and returned them to the Elephant House. The elephant exhibit has been closed until further notice. Zoo officials have not made a comment at this time.

The police have questioned some suspects, but no arrests have been made at this time. In a released statement, police chief Mark Anderson said, "We believe these actions have been performed by possible terrorist cells operating here in Pocatello."

The police encourage Pocatello residents to keep their eyes open for any suspicious activity. "You can't be too careful in times like these," Anderson said.

If you have any further information to report regarding this incident, please email the Webb Times Newspaper at

Written in dedication to Renee, Paul, and Wendy. May your imaginations never die.

Wild & Whiny, Power & Politics, Silver & Stakes

Years ago, I used to play word games with my friends/coworkers Kevin and Randy. We'd have long email conversations that consisted of nothing but rhyming lines, and one time they came up with descriptions of my evil twin MalRita. She was mal-odious and malevolent and malicious and malignant. I never knew there were so many "mal" words.

At a Carrie Newcomer concert, I learned about road games like Store-Keeper Bob. If store-keeper Bob was a butler, he'd be door-keeper Bob. And if store-keeper Bob was a pig farmer, he'd be boar-keeper Bob. And if store-keeper Bob worked for the Coast Guard, he'd be shore-keeper Bob...

Ah yeah, you get the picture.

So I want to play an alliteration game, comparing Vampires and Werewolves. I thought about making this a Top 10 List but decided instead to keep my list small so that you can play the game too. Here goes:

  • werewolves are Wild, and vampires are Whiny
  • werewolves like Power, and vampires like Politics
  • werewolves' weakness is Silver, and vampires' weakness is Stakes
  • werewolves come from the Earth, and vampires go to Eternity

Yeah, it's corny. But you won't know how much fun it can be until you start to play. So try to finish this one and then come up with some of your own:

werewolves are controlled by the Moon, and vampires are controlled by ________

P.S. I hate listening to alliterated, three-part speeches.

Werewolf Poetry Contest

Wolves capture our imagination--howling in the night, running through the forest, chasing their prey, bonding with their pack, loving and living in wild abandon. Movies and art and stories attempt to capture these creatures in artistic form, and nothing grips us more than the myth of the werewolf--humans gone wild.

I'd love to be wild and beautiful and fiery like Vivian (Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause) or strong and witty and spunky like Kitty (Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn). I wonder what it would be like to change my shape for a day, slip through the woods, and howl at the moon.

I am looking for poets to have some fun with me, writing poetry about wolves or werewolves. I'm giving away prizes for the top winners and publicity for anyone with a good poem.

The Rules

1. The competition is open to poems of 45 lines or fewer (not including title of entry). Entries outside the line limitation will be disregarded.

2. The subject of the poem must be about wolves or werewolves. All entries must be in English, original, unpublished, and not submitted or accepted elsewhere at the time of submission.

3. To enter the contest, please submit the following information to

  • your entry
  • number of lines
  • author's name
  • home address
  • email address
  • author's bio
  • website
  • answer: May I contact you with future contest information?

4. Entries must be submitted by Saturday, August 1, 2009.

5. I will choose several of my favorite poems and allow readers to vote to determine the winners. Voting will start Wednesday, August 5, 2009, and run to Wednesday, August 12, 2009.

6. Winners will be announced on this blog by Saturday, August 15, 2009.

7. The first-prize winner will be determined by the entry with the most votes. The winner will receive the book Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause as well as free publicity by having the winning poem and author's bio posted on my blog.

8. The second-prize winner will be determined by the entry with the second-most votes. The winner will receive the book Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn as well as free publicity by having the winning poem and author's bio posted on my blog.

9. The runner-ups will be determined by any poem that I enjoyed but did not receive the top votes. All runner-ups will have free publicity by having their poem and author's bio posted on my blog.

Book Review: Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn

I just finished reading Kitty and the Midnight Hour by Carrie Vaughn. It was a fun, easy read, full of action and mystery. I was spellbound, reading the book in just two nights. (If not for kids and work, it would've been one.)

Kitty is the omega of her wolf pack, whimpering when the alpha snarls, tucking her tail between her legs, begging to be accepted and loved by a dysfunctional pack. But that all changes when she inadvertently becomes the host of a popular talk radio show--one that caters to giving advice to werewolves, vampires, and other supernatural creatures.

The world thinks it's a hoax, but Kitty and her callers--at least most of them--know differently. I like the way the author just jumps right in. No prelude. No introductions. Just "Here's Kitty and here's her world. Enjoy." I think that's a great way for an author to start a book. Give me a reason to care before you tell me all about your character's sordid past. Besides, it ruins the intrigue and mystery to tell me everything up front. Why should I keep reading if there's nothing to discover?
The book is action packed, focusing on the plot rather than the characters. In that way, it is very different than Blood and Chocolate, and for that reason, I prefer Klause to Vaughn. But at the same time, I like how Vaughn portrays the supernatural world, shows the differences between vamps and werewolves, and grips the reader with a spunky character.
I promptly picked up the next book in the series, Kitty goes to Washington, finished it in one day, and then picked up the next book, which is Kitty Takes a Holiday. I'll be finishing it tonight, and I can hardly wait. I'm just so mad at some of the characters. I'd like to throttle Kitty and give Cormac a talking to.
Yeah, I guess I'm sucked in.
Maybe tonight I'll finish in time to get to bed at a decent hour. I sure hope so because my drive to work didn't feel so safe this morning.

5 Steps to Focusing on Today

Eat and drink and be merry. Because tomorrow this may all be for naught.

Then I commended mirth, 
because a man hath no better thing under the sun, 
than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: 
for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, 
which God giveth him under the sun.

Then I beheld all the work of God, 
that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: 
because though a man labor to seek it out, 
yet he shall not find it
 - Ecclesiastes 8:15, 17a

Let us eat and drink; 
for tomorrow we die
 - Isaiah 22:13, 1 Cor. 15:32

It is foolish to ignore a dream. It is also foolish to ignore life in pursuit of that dream. So my words today are meant to find the balance between perseverance and focus.

1. Remember what your dream feels like.

My dream tastes of freshly baked cookies and snatches of kisses from tiny little lips covered in crumbs. My dream smells of fresh country air and sounds like the laughter of children playing outside my kitchen window. The aroma of fresh roses wafts in through the open window, and the sunshine melts me into a soft puddle of happiness. The garden of fresh vegetables calls me early in the morning, and my laptop calls me at night. I am right where I should be. With me family. In my home. I am doing what I always wanted. Playing. Teaching. Loving. Writing. 

I write because I want to. Because there is a story bursting to be told. Because my heart will die inside me if I don't. Because I love the praise of adoring fans. I love to entertain. To surprise and delight. To put the words together that feeds someone's imagination.

I hate being a slave to someone else's agenda. I want to be free. Running wild like a child. Exploring the forest for adventure. Climbing mountains. Seeking love and peace and goodness.

2. Live like tomorrow has already come.

If you produce a best seller, are you going to stop writing? I'm not. I want to keep going. If I made millions of dollars on a book, I wouldn't retire. I'd quit my day job and keep right on writing. That's because I am a writer. It's in my blood. Success will not change that.

This means that today I must make writing a part of my life and family. It's here to stay. Until I die when I am ninety-six. That gives me over sixty years to write, plenty of time to give the world many wonderful books. No need to do them all in one night.

But my children will only be with me for the next eighteen years. No book is worth wasting my time, especially when it is for them, to be with them, to be a wonderful mother, that I yearn for success.

3. Believe that success will come to you.

Perseverance comes from having the faith that success is possible. Balancing perseverance with life comes from having the faith that success is a gift. It is not earned. Oh, I'm not saying that it comes at no effort. I'm saying it cannot come by our own efforts. Call it karma. Call it luck. Call it blessings from God. If you think you've gotta succeed all on your own, you'll only kill yourself trying. But if you trust that if you move forward at a steady pace, the rest will fall into place, almost by a miracle, then it will happen. Faith is a powerful thing. Even if it is just that people are drawn to the power of your good attitude.

4. Set goals and tasks.

Brian Moreland, in his success story, said that he had a dream but no direction. So he listed his values and set his priorities.

I asked myself, “What do I want most? What’s most important to me about my dream career?” I listed my values in simple words like: achievement, fun, seeing my books on bookstore shelves, sharing my writing with readers, receiving advances and royalty checks, hanging out with other writers, writing a bestselling novel, etc. And then I listed those values in order of importance. Prioritizing your values is key, because it causes your mind to focus on what’s most important to you.

It's really a Stephen Covey kind of thing. Set your goals and list the tasks you need to do to get there. Then keep moving forward. One day at a  time. Each and every day into eternity.

My goal at this time is not to produce a best seller. Someday, yes. But now, my values are these: my family, writing great fiction, earning enough money as a writer to quit my day job, being a lover of good books and stories, working from home.

5. Remember your dream.

In the effort to move forward, we sometimes forget why we are doing this. Our goal becomes the task rather than the dream. We need to remind ourselves why we are doing this. We need to stop and smell the roses, take a deep breath and let it out slowly, and smile because there is so much more than just the tasks for the day. There is a dream that we believe in.

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More on Perseverance

2 Types of Perseverance

I confess there are times I want to give up. The dream has taken its toll on me. I've sacrificed myself and my well being for it. I've sold myself out, giving more than is humanly possible. Some nights I've stayed up way past midnight and then got up at 6 am to go to work.

Work all day. Get home. Feed the kids. Tuck them into bed. "Read me a story, mommy?" "Not tonight, girls. Mommy's tired. Tomorrow." Write and write and write. Go to bed after midnight. Husband wants sex. I want sleep. The next day, the alarm goes off at 6 am. It starts all over.

Everyday, I'm grumpier. Everyday, the kids are whinier. Everyday, the husband is angrier. Life can't go on this way. People can't live like this. It ain't possible. We are limited creatures with needs. We have to be restored. We have to be renewed. Otherwise we fall apart, and our families fall with us. That's why perseverance has to be balanced with focus.

#1 type of Perseverance: Tomorrow Focused.
Perseverance that focuses on the big success is just living for tomorrow. Someday, you'll have the time to exercise. Someday, you'll have the time to spend with your family. Someday, you'll be successful. Then you can live. Then you can spend an afternoon playing ball with the kids. Then you can celebrate the small successes you have today.

What's nasty about this type of perseverance is that you are never satisfied. You never have enough fans. Never make enough money. Never happy with your efforts. You're striving for something unattainable. Something empty.

#2 type of Perseverance: Today Focused.
Perseverance that focuses on daily goals enjoys the process and makes room for life. This week, I wrote a chapter on the Daughter of the Goddess series and worked on the "War" story. Many new people read my work and loved it. The number of blog readers is growing. Slowly and surely, I am getting somewhere. That's something to celebrate. That's a success worth cheering.

I should pat myself on the back and take a day off. Play. Giggle. Read. Eat. Run. Exercise. Dance. I have done something wonderful and I should enjoy it.

Persevere through today. Take care of the work that sits before you today, leaving room for family and play. Tomorrow's work can be done tomorrow.

Don't try to cram tomorrow, next week, next month, into today's work. That is a recipe for failure. The road to disaster.

Tomorrow I will write on the steps to Today-Focused Perseverance.

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More on Perseverance

Short Story: Daughter of the Goddess, Part IV - Psyche, Soul

This short story is part 4 of the Daughter of the Goddess series. You can read part 1 here.

The wind whispers in her ear, calling her to play. "Not today," Peaches says. She smiles, leaning out the window to catch the wind in her face. It blows her wispy blond hair. That one strand of hair that often annoys her brushes across her face and tickles her nose. She pushes it back behind her hair. "Today is my name day. I had my first blood moon, you know."

"I'm thirteen now." Which makes her all grown up. So she shouldn't play with the wind anymore when it comes to call. "Don't worry," she whispers. "Tomorrow, I will be a kid again. Tomorrow, I will play."

"Peaches!" someone calls. "Are you dressed yet?"

Peaches looks down at her cotton underdress. Oh no, she has forgotten. How has the time slipped by? Brushing her hair, she'd been thinking about the dance. And then she just had to dance about the room. To practice. This would be her first year to dance with the older girls. She didn't want to stumble in front of everybody and ruin the dance.

"Dance with me?" A prince had stepped from the corner. His eyes were dark and stormy and so intense that she couldn't take her eyes from his. He swept her onto a cloud, and the two flew through the sky as the wind whistled—

"Peaches? Did you hear me?"

"Almost ready!" she calls as she pulls the dress over her head and runs out the door with the material still covering her face. She knocks into something and thumps back onto the floor. Pulling the dress down, she peaks out. The Mother is standing over her, her hands on her hips.

"Peaches, what have I told you—"

"I'm ready. Honest."

"You are putting your dress on backwards."

Her cheeks burn as she tries to move the dress around. Instead, she just gets all tangled up. "Let me help you, little girl," the Mother says gently, a bit of amusement in her voice. The Mother adjusts the dress, and Peaches pulls her arms into the sleeves.

"See? I'm ready." She twirls about. "Do you like the way I look? Do you think someone dashing—"

Pulling Peaches' hair out of her dress and straightening her collar, the Mother purses her lips. "As beautiful as a treasure. And someday, you will find someone dashing. But not today. Now you remember what I told you?"

Peaches nods. Today, she will be presented to Elias, god of the heavens, as a priestess of Araphia. There she will receive her new name. She's a woman now, the Mother told her. So now she must have a woman's name.

"I don't know if I want to be a woman. I don't want a new name." Peaches looks up at the Mother, searching her eyes, hoping that she will change her mind. "I like myself just the way I am."

"Not everything new is pleasant, Peaches." The Mother cocks an eyebrow at her. "But just because it is unpleasant does not mean you should not face it. Tomorrow, it will be over and not seem nearly as bad as it does now."

"Yes, Mother." Peaches looks up into the Mother's dark eyes. They are soft and kind and stern. She sighs. The Mother loves her, but no arguing or begging ever changes her mind.

"Now come along, Peaches. Your sisters are waiting for you." The Mother takes her hand and leads her to the room where all the other girls are. The girls are giggling, hugging each other, and dancing about, and when they see Peaches, they throw their arms around her and laugh some more.

"Come and see." Her friend Maris takes her hand and pulls her across the room. "Lily has a gift for you." Now standing in front of Lily, Peaches studies the older girl's face. Lily is tall and willowy and graceful. Every girl at the temple wants to be just like her. To be that beautiful.

"Your sisters and I made you something special for your first dance," she says, holding something behind her back. "So close your eyes and turn around." Peaches turns around and closes her eyes, a smile stretching across her face. She can feel hands place a circle about the crown of her head.

"All right," says Lily. "You can look now." Peaches reaches up to feel the ring of silky flowers on her head.

"We used purple flowers for your hair," Maris says. "It'll look better on your white hair, and all the boys will think you are the most beautiful angel they have ever seen." Peaches feels the heat in her cheeks again and looks down at her sandaled feet in embarrassment. There are gold rings on her toes with little bells. So different from the little dirty toes she had when she first came here.

Maris snatches her friend's hand again and pulls her toward the fountain. "Come on," she says. "See what you look like."

In the fountain, Peaches sees her reflection. Startling blue eyes stare back at her, and the long, white-blond hair falls forward as she leans toward the pool. It tickles her nose, and she pushes it back behind her ear, almost making the crown fall into the water. She laughs. "I'm a princess pirate on the raging seas," she says, jumping onto the pool's edge and brandishing an invisible sword.

"You will be a wet princess with no beautiful dress for the dance if you do not get down, little lady," the Mother says from behind her.

Peaches jumps down and chews her lip in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Mother. I was just—"

"Playing. Yes, I know." The Mother sighs. "You are always playing. But now it is time to find your place in line. The town is waiting for the priestesses to begin the ceremony."

Peaches hurries to find her place in line. The order is oldest to youngest. Although she is the last girl to have her first blood moon, she's not the last in line. Unlike the other girls, her first bleed came late. The nurse says it is because she is so small and frail. "But it is not a concern," the old woman had said in her cracked voice. "You grow stronger every day, and your woman's cycle will come when you are ready."

At seventeen, Lily—the oldest, unmarried girl, other than the Mother—stands at the front of the line. Peaches hopes she will be given a name as beautiful as a flower, like Lily. Maybe Rose or Heather. Ah, she is a wildflower, growing in a field, raising its head to the sun on the side of a mountain.

The wind plays in her hair and whispers to her. That's not your name. You are not a flower.

She sighs. But I'd like to be a flower. Elias, if you love me, give me a flower name. Please.

Lily steps through the gate, and the crowd cheers. The wind blows about the girls, whipping hair and dresses in tumultuous glee. A tingle of excitement flushes through Peaches. Even the trees are singing on this day. The line steps forward in time to the beat of the music out in the town square. She hears flutes and drums. And the pipes made from bags, her favorite.

Her feet move to the beat just as she had practiced. Watching the older girls, she finds her rhythm and sets her movements with theirs. She glances at the crowd. Will they laugh at her? What if she stumbles? Hundreds of eyes, watching. Some people are clapping. Some are laughing. Her heart jumps into her throat.

She's supposed to turn left, into the circle. Instead, she turns right. A cheer rises from the crowd, jeering at her. Her heart jumps into her throat. Turning back to the center of the ring of girls, she wishes the earth would open up and eat her. Swallow her. Hide her.

Her friend Maris squeezes her hand and smiles at her. "'Don'tcha be a-paying attention to the crowd. Just ye have fun,'" she quotes Mistress Howl. "Remember?"

Just have fun. Peaches nods and smiles. She takes a deep breath and then lets it out quickly. She looks around at her friends, their faces full of smiles and laughter. These are her sisters. These are the people who protect her and love her. With them beside her, she will never be alone.

She throws her head back and laughs. The wind in her hair. The music calls to her. Sings to her. Come and play. Dance with me. Together they twirl and dance and beat their feet to the rhythm and come in and out and duck through arms and then twirl about again. Joy spreads up her belly and into her chest and erupts from her mouth in a wild cry. Like fire bursting forth.

The crowd fades away as the world whirls about in dancing colors. A forest surrounds her. She is a wood nymph, dancing to the song of the wind. Cherry blossoms shower upon them with blessings from the gods, and the song of the river entices them to wild abandon.

With one final whirlwind, Lily brings the girls to a halt. The crowd cheers. The girls curtsy.

Her heart beats wildly in her chest, and her breath comes in short gasps. She brushes her hair back from her face and tucks it behind her ears. Her crown of purple flowers is lopsided—she can feel it about to fall off—but she grins at the townspeople, unconcerned about how silly she must look.

Families separate from the crowd to embrace daughters that they've given to the goddess. Peaches stands alone, watching all the other girls being greeted with warm hugs and kisses. She smiles at them wistfully. Being happy for her sisters isn't enough to erase the hollow emptiness in her heart.

"Ah, there ye be," a warm, familiar voice says behind her. She turns to see Mistress Howl, beaming at her. Her face is more wrinkled now, and her hair has more white than brown. But it is still that same pleasant face, and those eyes still sparkle with joy and laughter.

"Mum!" she cries and throws her arms about the woman's neck. Arms surround her, comforting her like a warm blanket.

"My word, you have grown, Peaches."

"But you saw me just yesterday!"

"Aye, but that is often what is said on such occasions. I wouldn't want ye be a-missing anything now."

"Oh, Mum, all I need is your hugs to be happy."

"And perhaps some biscuits and honey?" Mum asks. "I'll be a-waiting ye in the kitchen for yer midnight snack."

Peaches laughs. "Yes, and biscuits and honey."

The Mother claps her hands to call the girls back together. "Ladies, back in line. It is time to visit the temple of Elias."

Peaches quickly hugs Mum and then follows the other girls back toward the Mother. A tap on her shoulder interrupts her, and she turns to say good-bye to Mum one last time. But instead, a shriveled old woman, her eyes white with blindness, stands behind her.

An icy prickle runs across her shoulders and down her back. The world seems to stop. Everything falls away from around her. The voices of the crowd hush. The people stop milling about. Time stands still.

In a crackly voice, the woman says to her, "Daughter of the goddess, you have been called as an oracle to Elias, god of the heavens and of the earth. To you has been given the gift of visions. You are the one who walks in dreams by day. Do not be frightened. But you must tell others what you see."

"Yes, I will," she answers.

"Are you coming, Peaches?" the Mother calls to her. She glances at the Mother and then back at the woman. But the woman is gone. Everyone is line, waiting for her. The crowd has begun dancing. Some people stand by the side, eating and drinking. No one is watching her. No one is paying any attention, as though nothing has happened.

That icy prickle moves down her back again and sits heavily in her stomach like a bag of rocks. "Yes, Mother," she says. She hurries into line, her hands shaking, and then follows the girls in front of her. One foot in front of the other. Nothing feels real. As though she was in a dream.

They file back into the temple and enter the throne room. Peaches puts her face to the floor just like all the other girls. She has never been allowed here before. Priests only, the Mother had scolded her when she tried to peek in. She was little then. Now she knows that this is a sacred place. The place where the god Elias resides. Where the goddess Araphia worships.

"Let the young priestesses step forward to receive their new names," the priest says. His voice is stern and harsh and echoes through the marble room.

She stands, her head bowed, and steps forward with the younger girls. Through her lashes, she peeks about. The room is large with a grand marble throne sitting in the middle. Upon that throne sits a figure. Bright like the noonday sun. She could see his feet but didn't dare look any higher. What happens to someone who looks at the face of a god? She would melt for sure. Or burst into flame and then her ashes would blow to the far reaches of the world. Her sisters would mourn her. "Here lies one who dared to look upon the face of Elias," they would cry.

Oh, that wouldn't work. If she is nothing but ashes, they couldn't say, "Here lies…"

Just the feet were awesome to behold. They glowed like fiery embers, and she could not take her eyes from them. The words from her early days, learning at the temple, come back to her.

Mount Andalynoran is his throne.

Demaria his footstool.

The dragons bend in homage.

May we learn to do the same.

It was just words then. Now it rings so true. No jewel would be lovely enough to grace his foot. To touch it would be magic.

The priest steps in front of her, blocking her view. "Keep your eyes down, child. It is not proper for one as lowly as you to look at the throne of Elias."

"Yes, sir."

She turns her face down as instructed, but once he passed her by, she looks up again. There is nothing she could do to stop herself. Maris pulls on her sleeve and hisses in her ear, "Stop it. You'll get in trouble. It's just an empty chair."

Empty? Couldn't she see the man who sat there? He is so large that his foot is as tall as Peaches. How could Maris miss that?

"Make your prayers to Elias," the priest commands. "When he is ready to give you your name, I will call you forward."

Peaches puts her head down to the ground. What do I say to one with a foot like yours? All the jewels upon the earth could not be as beautiful. She is just a humble girl. What does she have to say to the god who created heaven and earth? He created the goddess. He created her.

"Say that you want to see my face."

Oh, anything but that. To see his face would mean her death. Could she withstand it?

"I will show you my face. I want you to know me."

No. Please don't ask that of me.

"Little Peaches, I was there when you were born. I was the wind that whispered in your ear. I was the trees that sang you to sleep. I was the water that played with you. I was the one who loved you when no one else would. I was the one who brought you to this place of peace. Please come to me. Come to see my face."

You love me? Me? Even me?

"Even you. My daughter. See, I give you a new name. Your name is Nephecia. You are my soul. You are born of my breath. My life. My heart."

"I—I want to see your face," Nephecia answers out loud. She rises from the floor, trembling.

Maris grabs the hem of her dress. "They haven't called you yet, Peaches," Maris whispers. But Nephecia doesn't answer. She must go to the one who has called her. If she doesn't, her heart will break. For then she will disappoint him, and then she will whither and die.

She steps forward. The priest gasps and rushes to stop her. But she is already there, at those feet. "I am here. Please take me into your hand." He reaches down and lifts her up. He sets her on his lap. He is smaller now. She is like a baby in his hands.

His eyes are fierce and wild. Like the wind on a stormy day. She can feel lightning and thunder rumble through him. And yet they twinkle merrily, like the laughter of the brook when the sun glints on the water's surface. His cheeks are rosy, and his smile made her know she is safe. She is always safe.

A beard as white as snow fell down his chest. Not like the soft, downy snow of Father Winter, but rather like an avalanche bursting upon you in the mountains, swallowing you in its fervor. It wasn't the beard of a sweet old man. It was the mane of a lion, strong and ready to pounce.

"Can I—can I touch your beard?"

"Yes, child."

Nephecia reaches her hand forward, hesitantly. She stops and then starts again. Finally, her fingers slip into the hair. Tingles of magic run up her arm in delightful pangs of pleasure. She buries her face in it. She feels the magic flow over her like water splashing across her face and running down her hair.

"Can I stay here with you? I never want to leave."

Part 5 of the Daughter of the Goddess series is coming soon.

Erik Johansson performs a magic show

I am mesmerized by Johansson's work, but this picture in particular captures me. First, I study the fish. It is the scales at the top that fascinate me the most. Comparing the scales to the rock on the island, I think the scales seem to match. Are they torn or are they rock, I wonder. Without an answer, I move to what catches me next: the fish's eye.

Is he a real fish? His face looks like stone or marble, exquisitely carved. But the fish's fin is slightly translucent, just as a real fish would.

I look at the rocky walls where the fish is trapped. They line up perfectly with the land above. I study them through the murky water. Every detail is so clear.

Finally I look above the water. What would it be like to live on that island? If the fish should flick its tale, would it knock the pictures from the walls? I hope the fish doesn't get hungry. That poor fisherman might get quite a surprise.

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My eyes are drawn to the folds in the road. No, not quite. Actually, it is the man that fascinates me. What is his mission? How did he come by this task of pulling a road? Will he ever be done? He seems so determined. So strong. As though nothing could deter him from his purpose. Like Atlas holding the world. I think I'd like to write a story about this man, except Johansson has already captured the story. My words would never achieve what I see.

Then my mind moves to figuring out how the magician mastered the trick. Surely there must be a seem where the two pictures are melded. I study the road, the grass, the lake. In all that studying, I almost missed the car in the distance. There goes the theory that it wasn't a real road. I shake my head, giving up, and instead study the man once again. A story I could never write.

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Erik Johansson agreed to let me use his pictures and to answer some questions. You can see his other works here at allt eller
1.) Where do you find your inspiration?

Since most of my work so far is personal projects, I work when I feel like. It begins with an idea that I want to realize. I get the inspiration from everywhere from daily acclivities to magazines and books. Hard to say how I get it, it's just there. When I know what I want to do I usually begin looking for places where I can take the photos that I need, this takes a lot of time and the scene is very important for the final result. When I have find the places and taken the photos I put them together in the computer. I try to make it look as real as possible and the light is everything to make it look good together.

2.) How did you get started in photography?

I have always been drawing since I was a kid. In the year 2000 I got my first digital camera as a birthday present. I discovered that it was fun to change the photos in different ways and it was similar to drawing in a way that you create something more than just the photo. I did some basic manipulations but got tired of it after some time. In the year 2007 I was out in the Swedish countryside with a friend who bought a DSRL-camera a year earlier. I tried his camera a few times before but this day I decided that I would get my own. That was two years ago and since then I have learned a lot.

3.) How much time do you put into each work of art?

It depends. Most of the time, the planning is what takes most of the time. I need to find the perfect place to take all the photos that I need. The work in the computer usually takes 10 hours or more.

Perseverance: Brian Moreland's success story

Three years ago, I lost a lot of weight after my third child was born. I would study up on all the success stories--I loved looking at the before and after pictures. That will be me someday, I knew. I believed it. And because I believed it, I was very successful. I am certain, that if I had doubted myself for an instance, I would have failed.

So now my goal is to be successful as a writer, and I have to have that same kind of faith. Only if I believe that my efforts will reap a reward can I find the will to continue. If I didn't believe that, I'd have given up long ago.

I guess what I am learning is that perseverance means to be faithful--full of faith. It will happen. There is no reason to give up when tomorrow holds so much promise. And today, I can work to get ready for what tomorrow will bring.

Brian Moreland is a self-published author whose book Shadows in the Mist was recently picked up by Berkley/Penguin in New York. He wrote an article on his blog about dreams and his uphill battle to reach those dreams. Very inspiring. His mantra is, "Never give up. Keep climbing until you reach your goal. No matter what, stay persistent."

Which is very similar to my own: Keep moving forward.

3rd Marketing Strategy: Being Persistent

Things may not look so good today. Nobody cares pinto beans about the fact that you are a writer. Nobody visits your blog. Nobody's flocking to Barnes and Noble to pick up your latest book. Nobody's looking you up on Amazon. For Pete's sake, you haven't even gotten a bad review, just no reviews at all. Nobody's listening. Nobody cares.

But perhaps tomorrow will be better.

As my friend and editor Joe Gergis says, it takes 15 years to become an overnight success. We hear about these people who threw caution to the wind and took up pen and paper and made millions. J.K. Rowlings wrote Harry Potter out of her car as she lived on the streets and then was rejected 12 times before an editor finally decided to take a chance with her. Stephanie Meyer dreamt her story and started typing. Even Stephen King started as nothing more than an English teacher. He threw his first novel in the trash. It was his wife who pulled it out and put it back on the desk with a note, telling him it was good and to keep at it.

The lesson is this: It may take years of effort before you see any returns, but without that effort, you won't get anywhere. It might be a miracle that finally gets you noticed, but it is only with that work behind you that you can have anything to offer once you are noticed.

For example, I now have over 50 blog entries. Someone coming to my blog will have much more to hold their interest than when I started.

For another example, I have been writing a lot of smaller pieces at varying lengths. Now if someone discovers one of my stories and enjoys it, they will have other stories to gobble up.

Guest writer Robby G said this on ProBlogger:
The great thing about perseverance when it comes to blogging is that the longer you push your log, the more you get out of it. It doesn’t matter that topic you write about, because there are a ot of people out there that have the same interests as you no matter what they are.

Perseverance gives your blog backlinks, it gives your blog a higher rating on search engines, and it gives people time to learn more about you and spread your blog’s name through word of mouth. If you read this blog and a bunch of other “making money online” blogs, it opens your mind out to how to market your blog properly, and if you connect perseverance to marketing, there is no stopping you. All that’s left is time to allow someone big and famous to come along and mention your blog in a review or just mention a little bit about your post to really help you explode onto the Super Blogger level.

It's not the miracle that makes you successful. It is the time and effort that happened before that moment. Your job is to keep moving forward, trusting that day will come when, miracle of miracles, you are discovered and loved and fans pour out of the woodwork. In the meantime, you will grow and strenghten and deepen and mature. The dirty edges will be washed away and the ugliness will be burned to dust. You will become the hardened, seasoned, naked artist that makes a story that pulls on the soul.

You will be ready for your miracle.

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Other topics on perseverance:

Recommended Reading:
Purple Cow by Seth Godin