NaNoWriMo 2019 – Halfway Point

Whoa-oh, we’re half way there … whoa-oh, livin’ on a prayer!

We just passed the halfway point of the challenge and my story ideas are turning into their own little monsters that taunt me at night. I thought I had an okay grasp of what the story needed to do. That is, until I realized that I had no actual villain to defeat. Gasp. I’ve written short stories where there is no villain and it’s worked fine, but I came to realize with a screeching halt that I’ve never done something novel length this way.

Cue the intense character naval gazing. This brings me to problem #2 – I have a set point where Isben needs to end up at the end of all this, and I can’t change it no matter how much the interesting story fairies try to convince me other wise.

This is hard.

In the past, when I’ve been bedazzled by a sparkly plot bunny, I’ve had full permission to follow it to my hearts content. That’s where some of my best ideas come from, chasing bunnies (and watching an unhealthy amount of Netflix, but I digress).

Dearest Isben, stop being so gosh darn internally complicated. I’ve had to psychoanalyze literally everything about you from your childhood upbringing and the expectations of your family, to your bizarrre irresistable urge to leave home, to how your culture has molded you into something that you feel is not right, and all to find a conflict compelling enough to drive you through this story without turning you into furniture.

That would be so much easier. Isben – you’re a couch now. Stop wanting an active role in your life and I’ll drag you to where you need to be without all the trust issues and drama. All I need is a moving truck and a GPS. You’d get there safe and sound with a minimum amount of drama.

Man, that would be dull reading.

Eyeroll. Fine. But I’m warning you, Isben, not only are you not going to be furniture, but you’ll have to struggle through every page until you reach the end. Don’t worry, I gave you a friend, he might quite possibly be the world’s most annoying bard, but he’s got a heart of gold. You’ll make it. I just need to decide in how many pieces…

Here’s to another ten days and the completion of this crazy project! Forget the treats, send a therapist.


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The Big 40 – I leveled up

Today is the big day where I cross the mile marker between heading up the proverbial hill of life to working my way down the other side. Let’s all go sledding, shall we? I mean, I’ve reached the “fun” part of existence, might as well enjoy it. I couldn’t think of a better group to hang out with than my fellow creatives.

However – for today, on the most momentous of days, I’d like to stop and enjoy the view.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

Ahhh … That’s nice.

Have you ever noticed that the harder the uphill climb, the more breathtaking the view seems once you’ve reached the top? It’s the reward for the hard work it took to climb up to the summit. That, mixed with probably a little bit of oxygen deprivation and sheer relief to just get there, makes for a memorable experience.

My path to the summit has been challenging, but very doable. There have been a few boulders to skirt along the way, but I can say I’ve been pretty lucky. In all my forty years I have never had an extended hospital stay, have never had a serious injury, have never totaled a car, and have never been arrested.

Most of that might be because I’m probably far too careful for my own good. You might argue that I’ve missed out – you might be right. But look – I’ve got a whole parcel of years ahead of me to try a few crazy things. I’m okay with this.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

There are things I’ve done that I’m embarrassingly proud of. I graduated from college, I have three amazing kids (all of which are way smarter than me), I published a book, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve learned a foreign language, I’ve volunteered my time to a non-profit organization, I’ve owned a home, the list goes on.

And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family.

To all of you, thank you!

Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash

Now, who brought the cocoa? If we’re going sledding that’s super important.

Next up – BASE jumping!

Anyone? … Anyone? … Bueller?


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Happy Birthday Stonebearer’s Betrayal!

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Reminiscing…

Exactly one year ago today Stonebearer’s Betrayal, my very first novel, entered the world – and oh what a day that was. There’s something to be said about a dream you’ve worked on for years to finally happen. To be honest, I was more terrified and insecure about release day than for the birth of my own children. So much depended on things that were wildly out of my hands, everything from Amazon rankings, to generating a good public buzz, tp the people who ended up coming to my launch party. All I could do was try my best and watch and wait.

With my kids, I didn’t have to prove anything. My responsibilities revolved around keeping them healthy and happy and success was easily measured. The world had nothing to do with their well being, as well it shouldn’t.

Yeah, not quite so true with books… Authors are expected to flaunt their book babies to the unsuspecting public at literally every turn. Even more so, we are supposed to go flaunt it to complete strangers and beg, remind, and cajole them to tell us what they think in the form of a review. We spend hundreds of hours seeking out ways of making connections with as many people as possible, because the health of our book baby depends on it.

The Challenges of First time Authoring

Some authors are much better at it than others. One of those tragic truths about creative people is that we’re good at what we do because we thrive on spending time with words and ideas and finding ways to make them exciting. Most of us struggle to reach out to strangers by the hundreds to find ways to share our message.

For me, this entire year has been eye opening to say the least. Leading up to last year’s release, I spent hours and hours learning about all aspects of authoring books, including researching marketing needs. There is something to be said about learning by doing vs. learning by any other means. While taking classes and reading books about the subject is an amazing way to get a general feel for what needs to be done, it feels like each challenge or obstacle is a burning match and the solutions are as easy as blowing it out.

On the other hand, learning by doing, especially when it comes to marketing your own products, is more like being thrown into a building that is on fire. It’s dramatic, scary, and sometimes you feel like you might die from the sheer volume of what needs to be done. No matter how hard you blow, the flaming challenges keep coming back.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I quite literally burned myself out. During the four months leading up to the release and then the six months after, I spent anywhere between 4-6 hours every single day working to find opportunities ranging from identifying people who would be interested in giving reviews to tracking down podcast hosts and pitching them show ideas. Over the course of the year, I showcased over a combined sixty different artists and authors on my blog as I tried to spread good karma.

Don’t get me started on the amount of time I spent trying to find my voice on social media. I still stink at that… But I’m learning!

Worse still, I lost the time to do the parts of authoring that I truly loved. I couldn’t find the time to write down new shiny stories and then polishing them up until they shone. The sequel novel didn’t get the attention it needed, not to mention the dozens of short story projects that I wanted to be a part of but simply didn’t have the time or energy.

Give me a new baby any day. Actually, I take that back. With my young kiddos still at home, I’m still balancing their needs into my working day.

The Future

All that said, the future of the Stonebearers brand is shining bright and I’m excited at all the plans that are coming together as I write this.

The biggest announcement, is that the sequel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal, Stonebearer’s Apprentice is slated to come out the second week of March 2020. Stay tuned for sneak peaks and other amazing stuff I’m planning for its release.

I’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with me. It’s been one wild ride, and will only get better. Thank you dear readers. I couldn’t do it without you.


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Time Management for People with Better Things to Do

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Time. It’s one of those fluid things everything thinks they can control. Funny thing is, no matter what you do, it keeps sliding by. This morning, I’ve had to sneak down to my evil lair two different times to finish different tasks due today. Normally, my Friday mornings tend to be chaotic as I work to get kiddos out the door on a different schedule. Getting any writing work done is usually not on the table until well after 9:30.

Today ended up being different. I know I’m going to be super busy the rest of the day and therefore needed to get my two small deadlines finished and scheduled before heading out on errands. Yay?

Should I have done those two deadlines yesterday when things weren’t as chaotic and not wait until the last minute? Yeah… but I didn’t. If this whole authoring business was easy or predictable, everyone would do it. Now if the voice of reason would please shush? Thank you.

Instead of enjoying my bonus sleeping time that I normally sneak in on Friday, I got my whiny behind up and marched it down to my office to finish task #1 – a scheduled post on the Strong Moms Facebook group. Every Friday I leave a mom friendly tip helping and encouraging women to go reach their goals and life a fulfilling life. It doesn’t take long, but it does take time.

After my first two headed out to school and my oldest was well on his way to being ready, I ran down stairs again to write this lovely post for my regularly scheduled Friday blog. Yeah, not sure if this one is paying off, but it’s something that’s important to me. Not every post can be wonderful or insightful – but every once in a while, I surprise myself.

My other big writing goal for the day is to knock out more words on my NaNoWriMo project and continue pushing forward on that goal. I’d like to do 2000 so I can stay ahead, just in case there are days later in the month, like Thanksgiving, where it will be that much harder to sneak away and write. Knowing my schedule, I’ll be happy with 500, as long as something gets on the page.

The bottom line is, everyone has different time constraints and scheduling needs. If you’ve got a goal and keep putting it off because you can’t find the time, I urge you to reconsider what that actually means. There are weird pockets of time sitting around waiting for you to grab them. Some of them might be funny looking, some might be inconvenient, but they are there.

Now, go do the thing – and then tell me all about it!


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Book Review: Word Painting Revised Edition the Fine Art of Writing Descriptively, by Rebecca McClanahan

For November, and NaNoWriMo month for many of my fellow writers, I thought it would be appropriate to review a book that covers an important part of writing craft – description. There aren’t many books out there about this topic and indeed it would be a challenge to cover the subject in a way that didn’t sound just a little bit crazy. This book does an admirable job.

About the book:

In ten chapters McClanahan discusses different ways to approach the art of turning mundane descriptions into word paintings that grab the reader’s attention and helps feel part of the world they’re reading about. She explores using the different senses, how descrioption can help the reader understand character and setting, and using figurative language and metaphor. The book is thorough, insightful, and includes plenty of examples to help teach.

My review:

For me, the book was an excellent reminder of how much power lies in the perfect description. An evocative piece of description has the power to transport the reader to another place and time where they feel they are living within the pages and seeing and feeling the story through the eyes of the characters. A poor piece of description can do the opposite, pull the reader out of the story, confuse them, and make it hard to understand what is going on in the story.

Perhaps the most useful advice gleaned from the book is the importance of anchoring description deeply into the point of view of the person experiencing it. If the character is a baker, we want to feel the grit of the flour that has collected on the backs of his hands and reminisce of better times as we smell the comforting aroma of fresh bread.

Another thing that McClanahan does well is find hundreds of different examples to help solidify what she is trying to teach. Some of these are remarkable pieces of description that indeed transported me into the world of the scene. When I read them, it made me want to be able to do the same with my own writing.

Recommendations:

I recommend this to writers who feel they have the basics covered and are looking for a way to improve. This book is wonderful to help see different angles that can be taken in a passage of description and helps break writers out of old familiar patterns. It also shows how description doesn’t have to be long to be powerful.

I would not recommend this to brand new writers. While it’s full of important information, it’s also overwhelming with just how many possibilities there are in any given line of description. The best time to read this would be when a writer feels they have established their voice and are looking for ways to improve and deepen it.

I give this book 3 stars.


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to AmazonGoodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

NaNoWriMo 2019

It’s that magical time of year again! No, not the holidays. Oh … wait, those are magical too. I’m talking about NaNoWriMo, the one month novel writing challenge that has grabbed the worldwide writing community by the fingers.

Over the years I’ve participated and succeeded in meeting the 50,000 goal words enough times that I have to think back and count on my fingers. It’s at least four times, if not five. Not super important. Some years I’ve used the challenge to write the second half of books in progress, like the upcoming release of book two in the Stonebearer Saga, Stonebearer’s Apprentice. This year I’m trying something new – writing a novella set in the Stonebearer Universe.

The lovely people running NaNoWriMo create awesome badges and swag for those participating. Aren’t they nice?

Novellas are short books ranging between 20,000 and 50,000 words (~80-150 pages) long and would be about half the length of the books I normally write. Yep, I’m excited.

The story will center around Isben, a young man who plays a critical role in helping the main character, Katira, in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. I will be backing up several years into his past and showing the path he needed to take to become part of the Stonebearer society.

Most years I promise myself I’ll do lots of great pre-planning and figure out all my characters and places and significant story points before the start of November. AAAAND, most years I end up running out of time and end up figuring it out as I go.

Guess who ran out of time again. Yep. This girl. Remember that awesome trip I took with my family? Turns out it’s really hard to work on stuff like this in a car. Some people can do it, I’m not one of them.

That said, normally scheduled blog posts are probably going to be short and snarky this month.

Wish me luck (and send treats!)


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Magical Place: Grand Canyon Caverns

Along Route 66, tucked way back by Kingman, Arizona, is what can be best described as a perfect piece of Americana. The Grand Canyon Caverns holds all the nostalgia of the type of road trips my parents and grandparents shared stories about. There is a wonderful cafe, well maintained RV park, curio shop, motel, gas station, and enough eye candy ranging from scrap metal dinosaurs to vintage vehicles, to satisfy young and old alike.

AND

Unlike most Route 66 iconic stops, this one has a giant cavern to tour and if you wish, have a unique dining experience inside.

Proof that a) I did go down inside, and b) I’m a terrible photographer, and c) you can totally rent a room in the cave. Very cool.

Our family found this little gem while traveling around the Grand Canyon area in our RV. True to Milner adventure standards, we just had to tour the cave and enjoy a meal inside. Our tour guide, David, was wonderful with our rambunctious kids and all of their questions and was friendly and knowledgeable about the cave.

A little about the cave’s history:

Like most great stories, this one happened to a fellow who was down on his luck and looking to make it big. In 1927, Walter Peck was on his way to a poker game when he stopped by a funnel shaped hole in the ground. It was raining, but the hole never filled up so he investigated it only to find a large cavern that to his eyes looked to contain diamonds and gold.

At the poker game, he told his friends about what he found and soon enough they wanted to see it for themselves. They gathered some samples with the hope that all their dreams had come true. Walter, not wanting to risk losing out on his soon to be fortune, bought up the land making what was found in the cave rightfully his.

Unfortunately, when the assay report finally returned, it revealed that instead of diamonds and gold all Walter had found was iron oxides and calcium carbonate crystals – both worthless.

Not wanting to lose his investment, Walter started charging people to come explore the caves. For twenty-five cents, he’d lower them down the hole tied to a rope and let them explore. If they wanted light, they’d have to bring their own, usually a kerosene lantern. This experience came to be known by the locals as the “dope on a rope.”

Over the years there have been plenty of improvements made to the caverns, including a modern elevator installed in 1962 to lower visitors down the 210 to the cave floor. Like I said before, there is also the Grotto dining experience where you enjoy a wonderful meal inside the cave.

If you want to learn more, head over to the Grand Canyon Caverns website: https://gccaverns.com/

Recommendations:

I’d recommend this experience to anyone who loves trying new and interesting things, is into geology, and doesn’t mind heights – or stairs. The regular guided tour of the cave covers 3/4 mile, most of which is walking up steep paved slopes and stairs or going back down them. While it’s technically handicap accessible, it would be pretty tough going for anyone on wheels.

If you aren’t comfortable with heights or enclosed spaces, this might be a bit of a rougher experience. That said, you really can’t see the 210 foot drop unless you peek down the slot of the elevator door. The whole cave is well lit so it doesn’t feel closed in and it’s dry in there so it doesn’t feel stuffy either.

My family, including all the kids, loved the tour and were able to walk through the whole thing without help. I’d recommend it for ages 6 and up, only because hauling tiny people up and down through the cave would be challenging and it’s just steep enough that a stroller would be pretty hard to manage.

As for the dining experience, the food and service was amazing. Although they were super accommodating for our family of five in the small space, I would recommend it as a couples experience and not with the whole family. Our kids thought it was awesome, but the other two cute couples there weren’t expecting to have to compete with our noise and were polite but glad when we finally headed out.

Selfie time!

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Sleep, The Final Frontier

Clearly this baby isn’t me. For one, it’s sleeping.
Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

The other day my mom shared a story with me. When I was a baby they needed to have me sleep in a different place for the night. I was just old enough to climb up and peek out of the crib, which, while adorable, can quickly turn into a parent’s nightmare when several hours pass and baby still refuses to lay down and asleep. Apparently I didn’t sleep the entire night and stood peeking out of the crib waiting to be rescued.

Knowing my tendencies, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. Growing up, I was the kid who was always the last to fall asleep at sleepovers, if I slept at all. I never could sleep well when camping, and the first night in a hotel anywhere meant a night of tossing and turning.

Everyone agrees that sleep is important. A bad night’s sleep can wreck an entire day. It cuts back productivity, drains energy, and makes us less able to cope well with stressful situations.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

As an adult, and especially as a parent, I’ve hit new exciting milestones of being tired that I’d never imagined. One day, when it had been several weeks since I’d had a decent nights sleep due to not one, not two, but three kids taking turns keeping me awake at night, I forgot how stoplights worked and who’s turn it was. I had no clue which way I needed to look to make sure I wouldn’t be plowed into.

That marked a turning point in my adult life to start learning how to get better sleep. I studied every article I could get my hands on to learn about scheduling, meditation, exercise, vitamins and supplements. I became more proactive about my kids sleep schedules and my expectations for them to stay in bed. I took back my night.

Most nights at least are okay these days.

It’s turned into a delicate balancing act. If I haven’t had my walk that day. or if it’s fall or winter and I haven’t used my happy light enough, or if I’ve forgotten to take my vitamins, or if I’ve got a lot on my mind or an unresolved problem, those bad nights still come, but much further apart than they used to.

My attitude about having a bad night has changed as well. Now it means I can go down to my office and spend a few hours working at my computer or reading in the silence of a sleeping house. Sometimes I catch up on YouTube videos.

I wouldn’t wish poor sleep on anyone. It’s disruptive, it means I’m tired during the day, and sometimes it makes me angry. But, had it not been for insomnia, I wouldn’t have turned into a voracious reader as a kid. When you’re too tired to cause havoc around the house, reading is a great alternative.

I’d even go as far as saying that if I didn’t have insomnia, I wouldn’t be a writer today.

If you find yourself struggling with sleep, I totally understand. There’s no easy solution and I wish there was. But, there are things that can help and it’s worth it to learn about your specific needs then make steps to work toward better sleep.

How do you feel about sleep? Do you sleep easily, or do you struggle? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


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“In the Eyes of the Lore: The Village it Takes” Guest Post by Kaki Olsen

I promised I wouldn’t totally do away with guest interviews and featured posts – and here we are! Kaki Olsen is a friend and fellow author who loves sharing her knowledge and experience with other writers and quite possibly has the largest internal database of obscure literature of any one I know.

I was thrilled when she wanted to share something here on the blog with my readers. Enjoy!

Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

In the Eyes of the Lore:  The Village It Takes

By Kaki Olsen

Happy October and welcome to my satellite installment of my literary analysis and book club, In the Eyes of the Lore.  If this intrigues you, you can also find more of the same on my author site:  www.kakiolsencreative.com.

It’s my favorite month to discuss spooky things ranging from the proper way to end a séance to the allegories of possession narratives.  I can bore you to tears or fascination with citations of an article on modern manifestations of fear that was coauthored by the author of Psycho.  I took a class on horror, science-fiction, and mystery writing in high school and have a lot to say on things that can make people feel deeply uncomfortable.

But, as you may know, that’s not the genre I’ve been published in.  I have written retellings of all but one of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, one astronaut drama, one dragon-smuggling android, one gardening romance and a lot of non-fiction.  That’s just based on what I’ve signed contracts for.  On my laptop are stories about secret societies made up of people with day jobs, a kingdom where fairy tales are regulated by law, and a 1920s murder mystery inspired by T.S. Eliot.

What I’d like to talk about today is how to write community-building.  This can apply to something as low-key as a family or as far-reaching as an entire nation.  I could even spread out to tell you how to invent an intergalactic system of politics, but I believe in working in closer quarters than that.

Let’s first talk about two of my favorite fictional communities:  Omelas and After the End Times.  You may not have familiarity with either unless you’re a Leguin fan or familiar with Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, but they’re rich in world-building for very different reasons. Spoiler warning because it’s nice to let you know I might tell you the ending in advance.

I remember reading Ursula K. Leguin’s “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” in Ms. Rodburg’s 9th grade English class. Ms. Rodburg was fond of shattering any idealism, so we also read stories like “The Nine Billion Names of God” (God commands humanity to know Him completely, then wipes them out for knowing him too well) and “The Star” (Jesuit priest discovers the remnants of a utopia that was destroyed in a supernova and is able to determine that the death of this society happened so there could be a Star of Bethlehem).  She’s incidentally the same teacher who taught me about horror writing. 

Omelas is a thriving community with festivals, pastimes, sophistication, and joie d’vivre.  The problem is that this utopia demands that one child be kept in the worst kind of squalor, neglect, and depravity.  Everyone in Omelas comes to know about this at one point or another and they are able to accept the sacrifice that makes their perfect lives possible or choose to abandon it.  The narrator admits to not knowing what happens to those people who choose to walk away from this horrifying perfection.

Contrast this with  After the End Times.  This is not a city or state or country, but as impersonal a forum as possible.  It is a company of bloggers across the world, most of whom will never meet each other in person.  This is largely due to the fact that, ever since the zombie apocalypse, travel has become something of an unnecessary risk.  People are terrified to venture out of their houses and one of my favorite sections of the first novel is when the narrator, Georgia Mason, goes to a political convention that is 7/8 shopping spree and 1/8 nomination of a presidential candidate.  It’s a place where people take advantage of being in public long enough to have a normal life and get Starbucks or buy a new car or check out the latest in self-defense technology.

Georgia and her brother Shawn have little sense of family.  They were orphans of the apocalypse adopted as a publicity stunt and have long outgrown their parents’ need to act like a family.  What they have in place of that is their website.  They are the main contributors to the highest-ranked reporting blog in a world where bloggers have replaced CNN and MSNBC because they are brave enough to still go into the world and confront the dangers.  Their beta bloggers and baby bloggers are something of an extended family, all under the jurisdiction of various trusted colleagues.  In a world where very little is up close and personal, the Masons’ community is the closest thing most of them has to intimate friendships.

When I talk at conferences about diversity in world-building, I bring up protected classes.  I ask about how the elderly, young, male, female, mentally sound, mentally challenged, physically fit, disabled, etc. are treated and regarded.  Then, when I have those answers, I ask what that says about the society.  In Omelas, we see that happiness is worth impersonal suffering.  In Newsflesh, we see that strangers can be more trusted than family.  The answers to these questions can also form the basis of a utopia or dystopia.

The project I’d like to feature today of my own writing is from the Iron Doves anthology.  This charity anthology was a collaboration of several authors in which all of the protagonists had to have three traits from a list of potentially marginalized people.  I wrote “Just One Chance” and made my protagonist a time-traveling android maiden.  Just when you think that’s unusual, she’s time-traveling to save a large number of people traveling to a new world from death and she does it by giving them a secret to keep.  If you were paying attention before, this is what my dragon-smuggling android refers to.

I based the entire society on the dynamics of a cruise ship to explain the setup, but then built the world around smaller-scale choices.  There is a culture among the stewards, but also a conspiracy of schoolchildren who hate being out of the loop.  There is a wide range of ways that adults respond to children having very inconvenient boundaries.  But the place where I have a soft spot for this society is that when the dragon hatches prematurely, the adults know that they will have to put her and her mother on a shuttlecraft or find a way to live with a fire-breathing monster the size of a pit bull in their midst.  They decide to let the children decide whether or not the dragon is a threat or another member of the already unconventional community.  The children, seeing no reason to judge a creature by the sins of its fathers, decide to treat it as one of their own.  The story ends before we ever find out what that means in the long run, but there are stories in the works that explore that as well.

About today’s featured guest:

Kaki Olsen is a Texan by birth, Bostonian by upbringing, and a world traveler these days.  She has been to twenty countries on five continents and her stories of pocket universes in Istanbul or pilgrim’s trails in Austria are as much fun to tell as the stories she writes.  She loves ballets, but is always rewriting them for modern audiences.  She is passionate about space exploration, but has been known to tweak the makeup of a colony ship.  Because she writes essays for fun, she has written on topics such as theologically debunking the zombie apocalypse and why poor characters make the best heroes.  She studied English at Brigham Young University and currently divides her time between a desk job at a law firm and being on the board of an arts non-profit.  She can be found at www.kakiolsencreative.com

Connect with Kaki:

About Iron Doves:

A set of short stories featuring female protagonist, dedicated to support those who have been in abusive situations and needed help. All proceeds will be donated to the Doves Program.

Find Iron Doves on Amazon!


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Insights with Tarot

Last week my friend and all together interesting guy, Dennis Morrison, came to the Oquirrh Writers Chapter meeting (part of the League of Utah Writers) to educate about the history of tarot cards and also teach about how they can be used to help guide decision making and give insights into one’s life.

I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that someone’s future could be glimpsed at through reading the cards or by the lines on their palms. Clues to success could be hiding in the stars, in the careful study of numbers, or even in tossing the dice. Teenage me checked out books from the library about palm reading. Grade school me made origami fortune tellers and played MASH, the paper fortune telling game.

My friends and I would spend hours goofing off with the different possibilities of our futures, as if writing it out on a piece of paper would actually change anything. Thinking back, playing with these different possibilities was important. How do you work toward a goal or dream, if you haven’t made one? I’d always be excited when MASH told me I’d be a doctor and was annoyed if I got secretary. Down the road, I ended up working in the medical field, albeit, not as a doctor. It seems the truth wasn’t hiding in the paper, but in my own interests. The paper only helped reinforce it.

All through those years of playing with different future divining mediums, I’d never had the chance to learn about tarot. My experience was limited to what was shown on movies, and heaven knows that’s never a good gauge of anything.

Tarot enthusiast, Dennis Morrison

Dennis taught how tarot cards began as a simple card game, much like UNO or SkipBo. Over the centuries, the art on the cards evolved and the usage changed. The practice of using the cards to guide decisions or give insight grew as a natural result of them being in use for so long.

As writers and creatives, we discussed how the cards might be used to help guide our characters choices or what might happen in the stories we are working on. The beauty of tarot cards, is that each one is an evocative piece of art. Any randomly chosen card will introduce an idea or an emotion for the writer to consider, and often one that the writer might not have otherwise considered. We were encouraged to take a metaphorical view of the cards and allow our own experiences adapt the image to something relating to our own experiences.

Part of the presentation included a change to choose one card for ourselves and explore what it might mean in our current situation. This was done by having each one of us scan through the deck for an image that grabbed our attention more than the others.

I chose the Hierophant, one of the major arcana. The imagery of a man coming out of the shadows holding an orb struck a cord with me. There are scary things behind him, but they don’t seem to bother him. He’s a priest which means he stands as an advisor and has knowledge to help guide people along their path.

As Dennis explained the attributes of this card, it made more and more sense why the image resonated with my current situation. I’m at a huge turning point in my writing career going from traditional publishing to independent. I’m stepping away from one way of doing things and onto another path.While it’s scary to be the one in control of my future, it’s also liberating.

In the end, I learned much more than I expected. While the card I selected didn’t change the reality I’m in, it helped me think about my situation in a new light and allowed me to consider different angles I hadn’t thought of before.

A huge thanks to Dennis for sharing his knowledge and insights with both myself and my group of writers. I know I came away feeling like I not only learned something new, but having a better understanding of the philosophy behind it as well.

And now I want to get a tarot deck of my own…

Have you ever had an experience with fortune telling or tarot? Share it with me in the comments!


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