"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Madame Tooshka’s Spell

Thank you again to everyone who participated in my giveaways, or left reviews for my work. Your continued support means so much to me. As another thank-you in helping me to celebrate six years of blogging, and in response to requests to read more of my fiction, I am sharing the below story for Halloween. I would love to hear your thoughts - pros and cons. Thanks again!

Madame Tooshka’s Spell

Jack let out a huff as he rocked from one foot to the other. How had he managed to get roped into chaperoning the school Halloween dance? After a long week with the law firm, it was not his first choice in how to spend a Saturday.
 “You have to come,” his twelve-year-old daughter Julie had gushed. “Ms. Mills says we need five more parents to agree to chaperone or the school board won’t let us have the dance.”
One round-eyed plea from his daughter could convince him to do almost anything. He sighed. Those brown irises were perfect replicas of her mom, but Julie had inherited his blonde locks. Ever since her mom passed away three years before, he’d played the role of two parents, something not easy to do with all of the hours he worked. There never seemed to be enough time to spend with her which was another reason he was here now.
Jack watched Julie twirl past in her blue princess dress, flanked closely by her friends the vampire, witch, and scarecrow.
He’d have thought the two hours at the Fall Festival before the dance began would have been enough to wear them out, but clearly not. Many a sixth grader would sleep soundly tonight after the sugar crash.
He smiled to himself and watched his daughter laughing in line at the snack tables with the same trio, now joined by another princess, an angel, and Spider-Man. His baby was growing up too fast.
Jack let out another huff, frowned, and removed his jacket. They really ought to crank the air conditioner a little higher, maybe bring in a few fans.
“Here, you look like you could use one of these.”
He turned to face a beautiful Gypsy. The long multi-colored scarf wrapped around her brown hair sparkled in the strobe lights. She offered a cold bottle of water.
“Thanks, you’re a life saver, Mrs...?
“Ms. Mills, better known as the Great Madame Tooshka,she added in a Russian accent when he clasped her hand in greeting.
He laughed. “Yes, I saw your tent at the fair. You had quite a line of kids waiting to see you.”
“That is because Madame Tooshka is best fortune teller in the land.”
“Oh, really?”
“For instance, I know your name is Jack Brenaman and you have daughter called Julie,” she sipped her drink before continuing without the Russian accent, “and she will always be your princess, no matter how big she grows.”
“Am I that obvious?”
“Only to someone with eyes.”
So, she had been watching him. Jack decided he really liked her smile. He found it infectious, and for the first time he found himself wondering about another woman. She’d said Ms., not Mrs.
“Do you have any children?” he asked.
“Yes, two hundred and seventeen of them at the moment.” She smiled at the confusion on his face before explaining, “I’m the school art teacher.”
He chuckled. “Oh, I meant of your own.”
“I know,” she smiled again. “The truth is I feel like they are mine. I love my job.”
He thought that was the best thing she could have said, until she added. “Of course, I can confide to you that Julie is a favorite.”
Perhaps she was just being kind, but the way she lovingly watched his daughter made him feel it was the truth. When she caught him staring at her, she smiled again. Enchanting. That was the only word he could think of to describe this woman. Am I ready to date again? Will Julie be alright with it if I do?
Jack took a sip of his water and looked again for his daughter. He tensed when he found her dancing with Captain America.
“Try to relax, Jack.” He felt a hand on his arm, and turned to stare into emerald eyes. “Julie is a bright girl who won’t tolerate any boy who might try to take advantage of her. Trust that you’re raising a smart, beautiful, and strong young lady.”
“Do you always know exactly what to say?”
“Madame Tooshka know all,” she teased, once again slipping into the accent.
“And does Madame Tooshka have a first name?”
“It’s Anna.”
There was that bewitching smile again. Jack didn’t want the spell to break.
“Well, Anna, I’ll be taking Julie trick-or-treating tomorrow night. Would you like to come with us?”
“I can’t. I’m expecting a lot of my students to come trick-or treating at my house.”
“Of course.”
“But, maybe my house could be your last stop? I can have spaghetti waiting on you two around eight?”

“Spaghetti is one of our favorites,” he felt excitement bubbling inside. Madame Tooshka had cast her spell, and she might just be the key to his future.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Winner and Bridge to Publication

First, congratulations to the winner of my blogoversary giveaway - David McCallum. You can check out the details of the giveaway here. 

Secondly, I'd like to invite everyone to a wonderful and affordable conference:

A Bridge to Publication - 12th Annual Writing Conference

November 12, 2016

Central School
809 Kirby St
Lake Charles, LA

BWG Members – $40.
Nonmembers – $50.
Students with ID – $25.
E-Book Prime Sponsorship – $100. Includes 1(one) ticket, sponsor listing in registration packet and social media pages, and one entry into special door prize drawing.
Doors open at 7 am
Conference – 7:55 am to 4:40 pm
Lunch, Mardi Gras Chicken will be included for conference attendees.
*An agent will be on hand to hear pitches. Pitches – 10 minutes
Scheduled Speakers (for Bios – Click HERE)

BJ Bourg – Mystery Author
Darrell Bourque – Professor Emeritus in English and Poet
Larry Gray – Playwright
Deborah LeBlanc – Mystery/Suspense Author
Quinn Loftis – YA Fantasy/Paranormal Author
DiAnn Mills – Christion Fiction Author
Latoya C. Smith – Literary Agent with L. Perkins Agency
WorkshopsPrewriting Your Novel – by DiAnn Mills
Dateline BWG  – BJ Bourg
Vendor Space for Conference Attendees and Non-attendeesAssigned 8 x 6 table space for rent. The program has time allotted for shopping throughout the day. Vendor must man (during shopping times) and provide own table, chair, table cloth, and change. Vendors that purchase this option will be emailed an assigned numbered space.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Coming Soon... Meditation

Only a couple of days left to enter my giveaway for free books and more. Check out the original post here.

I can hardly believe it's the middle of October already. Many of my friends are prepping for NaNoWriMo which begins in just two weeks. Are you participating? Not sure if you want to? Check out what best-selling indie author Glynis Smy says about the practice. And let me know...

I don't believe I will be taking part in the challenge this year. I have too many unfinished projects on my plate just now, and I'd really like to see them all to conclusion before 2016 slips away. 

It's just so easy to become overwhelmed. This time of year, with holidays looming ahead, seems to be particularly frantic for many. In response to the coming stress, I thought I would share a poem I wrote years ago. Feel free to critique it, or add your own spin in the comments.


I float into a coveted deep meditation,
Self-awareness becomes all, a place to stay.
Seeking wholeness, bliss, an utter mindfulness,
Where all boundaries simply drop away.
Sky, earth and sea melt into the light,
As graceful spirits transform me in kind.
I behold, appreciate the calm and peace,
A tranquility soothing my spirit and mind.

Renewing, healing and elevating my soul,
Trusting and understanding what I should become.
In the silence I am closer to myself,
A soothing, free-flowing fountain of one.

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Why?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Free Reads for Fall

This is the last week to enter my giveaway for free books and more. Check out the original post here.

Fall has finally reached our area. Cooler temperatures, orange decor, and pumpkin everything seems to be surrounding us. My kids of course love to dress up for Halloween and are anxiously picking out costumes.

Meanwhile, I'm revisiting some of my favorite tales of terror. Just now, I was reading my collection of Washington Irving. Love the headless horseman! Next, I may pick up a copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray or maybe even Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

If you prefer to stay home cuddled up with a good book instead of heading out for seasonal festivities, try one of my suggestions from 10 Scary Reads to Terrify Your Inner Child.

Interested in FREE scary books? Try one of these!

Need a last minute costume idea? Try one of these 10-Minute Lliterary Halloween Costumes and dress like your favorite characters.

How are you celebrating this season?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG: When is Your Story Ready?

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs. You can also join us on twitter using the hashtag #IWSG, or on the Facebook page.

Now, IWSG hosts have changed up the format in an effort to make it more fun and interactive.Every month, they will announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Don’t forget to visit others that day to see their answers. Want to join, or learn more? Visit our - Sign-up List.

The October 5th question - When do you know your story is ready?

My Answer - This question is almost impossible to answer because the truth is - I'm never really done! Even after a piece has been published, I'll find things I wish I could change. However, knowing this about myself, "How do I know I'm ready for someone else to read it?" might be a better question. My answer for this is:

1) Finish a first draft.
2) Take break - hopefully at least a week.
3) Self - edit. I usually give it at least four passes before I share with anyone else.
4) Share with Beta-readers or critique partners - these are free reviews and edits with a select group I'm comfortable working with.
5) Make my final edits based on the feedback before sending to an agent, editor, or publisher.

For more of my thoughts on this subject:

Working with Agents, Editors, and Publishers:
8 Ways to Annoy Literary Agents
7 Steps to Preparing Your One Sheet
Pad Your Resume and Wallets by Writing for Small Markets
6 Tests Before Publication
When and Where to Publish Short Stories
Then There Were Five
7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor
5 of the Worst Author Traits
Resume' for the Writer
Defining High Concept
Interview With an Agent
Speed Dating Pitch Session

How about you? How do you know when your story is ready?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Simply Happy Giveaway

I'm so excited to share the news of a new release coming October 4th. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Simply Happy is meant to be a crash course in Chicken Soup for the Soul advice and wisdom.

Editor-in-Chief, Amy Newmark, shares stories of her move from Wall Street to the publishing field, what she's learned, and what she hopes readers get from the books they publish.

"I hope all readers come to the realization that they are much more powerful and resilient than they might think. That’s really what the Chicken Soup franchise has been built on: ordinary people who find incredible strength in challenging situations."

I found every chapter to be full of practical, simple, and moving advice. Shared human experiences, solitary challenges, and personal choices can all shape our outlook on life, but Newmark points out the easiest ways to turn those circumstances into positives. She show us how we have the power to be "simply happy."

Publishers Weekly said - This compilation of lessons from a Wall Street investment banker turned self-help author and publisher will enrich the lives of its readers. Nine years ago, Newmark (Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less) and her husband, Bill, acquired the ubiquitous Chicken Soup for the Soul franchise. With this book, she aims to help readers enact similarly dramatic life changes. Newmark weaves her stories and those of others into a series of lessons on going easier on yourself, loving your body, pretending to be confident so you eventually come to be so, expecting the best of people, being bold and trusting your instincts, practicing gratitude, enjoying the little things, and living with passion. Newmark adds that “happiness is not a mysterious, elusive lottery ticket” but “a jackpot within everyone’s grasp once we remove the obstacles we put in our own paths.” Those obstacles also include “frenemies,” whom the author advises readers to ditch. Sensible and empowering, Newmark’s work aims to teach others how to live a satisfying life.

I highly recommend this book to any Chicken Soup fan, as well as anyone struggling with any issues.

Want the chance to win an autographed copy? Click on my giveaway to the right for more information, or go directly: http://writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2016/09/blogoversary-giveaway.html