A Different Kind of Review: Kindness Wins by Galit Breen

I’m on a roll, dear Reader.  Two different kinds of review in two weeks!  Amazing what a few days away from the day job can do for a writer.  My vacation has not been all writing and reading, as I’ve been fairly absent from social media.  We took a brief road trip.  More about that later.  For now, I want to share a review of Kindness Wins by Galit Breen.  This is a very important book for anyone engaged in social media.  I don’t have kids, but I loved this book.  I hope you enjoy the review.



Brittany giggled when she saw the photo Lucy had posted to Instagram.  In the photo, the two of them were sitting on an sandy spit in the middle of the creek, their long hair whipped around their shoulders, the sunlight making sparkles on their wet faces.  It had been an oppressively hot day, and the two girls had played in the shallow creek like toddlers, splashing each other and getting soaking wet.  They were happy, and they were laughing as Lucy took the selfie.

Brittany clicked Like and started to write a comment when something caught her eye.  There, from a guy she barely knew, was a comment:  “What fatties you both are!  How gross!”

Brittany looked at the photo again.  Okay, their t-shirts were sticking to them and maybe the way they were sitting made them look like they had rolls of fat, but, really?  Why would anyone write something so nasty?  She wanted to blast him.  She wanted to tell him that he must be a miserable and lonely person to write something so mean.  But she stopped herself.

She glanced over at the book that Mary had given her a few days before.  It had been a birthday gift from the three widows–Mary, Melissa, and Maggie–along with her first iPhone.  She knew the cousins had misgivings about her developing an online presence.  They trusted her, but they didn’t trust other people.  Not after what Brittany had been through.

But, as Lucy had so well argued, it was time for Brittany to come into the 21st century.  She was almost 20 years old, the same age as Lucy, and she needed to reclaim her life, a life almost cut short by a man she once thought of as her father.  Lucy would help her.  She had read Kindness Wins and, truth be told, she was the one who had recommended it to the widows.  Brittany thought she should stop thinking of them that way, but it was too hard.  She just needed to make sure she never referred to them as “the widows” online.

Brittany picked up the book and leafed through it again.  She had read it in one sitting, and then flipped back and forth, considering the bulleted “takeaways” that the author, Galit Breen, had included at the end of each chapter.   She really enjoyed how the book was laid out, each chapter being a “habit” for a child to learn about being online, with reading resources, discussion points, and the takeaways at the end.  She knew so little about social media, she was almost embarrassed to admit it.  Lucy understood, though.  Lucy understood everything about her.

But what to do about the mean comment?  Brittany’s fingers itched to retort.  She felt that liking the photo and then saying nothing might send the message that she didn’t care, or that she thought the mean comment was okay.  Lucy would know better, but other people might not.  A sentence from Kindness Wins popped into Brittany’s head: “It doesn’t hurt to be kind.”  She didn’t feel she had the guts to take on the bully, but she didn’t have to hide either.

“What a fun day we had! That’s what counts <3”  Brittany hit Return.

Well, Brittany thought, the bully will probably roll his eyes at that but no matter.  She and Lucy could create a virtual storm of kindness that will drown out the meanest comment.  And if they practice what Kindness Wins preaches, maybe eventually the bullies will just go away.  Better yet, maybe they will become kind.


Dear Reader, this is just a snippet of what you would get out of Kindness Wins.  If you’re a parent, grandparent, babysitter, caregiver, teacher, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend of friends with children, you will want to read this book.  Breen has an engaging writing style.  I really appreciate her honesty in sharing her own experiences and her own mistakes.  Kindness Wins will definitely influence how I engage in social media from this point on.

For a great interview with Galit Breen, courtesy of Laura Zera, click here

Get your copy of Kindness Wins here from Amazon.

Top Ten Things Not to do While Visiting a Bar

This top ten list courtesy of John Howell will make you glad you don’t go to bars anymore. But if you still go to bars … review this list before you go and beware of the pickled eggs 🙂

Fiction Favorites

This list was inspired by listening to stories related by our house guests who had made the bar scene during the Memorial Day Weekend. All of these are hearsay and not a matter of personal experiences. I hope you enjoy.

Ten Things Not to do While Visiting a Bar

10 If you are visiting a bar, do not stand too close to someone expecting them to talk to you. If you do, at best they will move away. At worst, you might be surprised to find yourself an unwilling volunteer for a jujitsu demonstration with you as the victim.

9 If you are visiting a bar, do not order a flaming drink for any reason. If you do, at best you will confirm your narcissistic tendencies. At worst your concoction will catch the back bar on fire, and the four-alarm fire department cost will put your credit card into default.


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A Different Kind of Book Review: Zero by J.S. Collyer #MondayBlogs #bookreview

Hello, dear Reader.  I’ve managed to squeeze some time into writing a different kind of book review.  This one is for a novel I’ve had for … ahem … well, quite some time.  It’s been available since August 2014.  Sigh.  And I finished reading it back in February.  I’m sharing these details to simply illustrate that, yes, I’m rather slow at reading and reviewing.  But without further adieu, here’s (finally) my review.  Enjoy!



Sarah leaned over and dropped the softcover book onto Michael’s lap. He grunted, startled out of his half-dozing state, his eyes still itchy from too little sleep.  He picked up the book and for a second conflated the book’s cover with what he had seen through his telescope only a few hours before.

“What’s this?”

“A book.” Sarah turned her attention to her hot coffee, avoiding the sight of Michael rolling his eyes.  She waited for him to follow his question and her pathetic sarcasm with “What I mean is … .” But instead he waited as she focused attention on her coffee, by turns sipping and blowing on it. She thought to herself, wasn’t it ironic that on a hot day (almost 80 and not even 9 am), she’d be sitting in her cutoffs and a thin white T-shirt, the humidity creeping up her neck and into her thick hair, with a cup of hot coffee before her.

Michael sighed and looked again at the book. He definitely liked the cover. He leafed through it for a few moments and then looked sharply at Sarah, who now was flipping through the pages of a knitting magazine.

“I didn’t know you liked science fiction.”

“Well, I didn’t know you liked chick-lit.” Sarah smiled as she remembered that evening when she learned that the hard-bodied Marine read novels.

Michael leaned back in his chair, lifted his legs, and rested his feet beside Sarah. He waited. Eventually, Sarah would fill the void. She always did.

“Okay, well, I did like Star Trek, at least the series with Captain Picard, and I liked Firefly … you know, that series that Fox stupidly took off the air … well, I heard about this novel by J.S. Collyer. That it was kind of like Firefly but better since we don’t have to worry about anyone canceling it.”

“So you read this already?”

“Of course! I wouldn’t give you a book that I hadn’t already vetted.”  Sarah put her coffee down and leaned toward Michael.  “So, this novel has space pirates, and they’re being infiltrated by a government guy. He feels like he’s being punished because he essentially disobeyed orders in order to save some lives, but it’s more complicated than that.”

“Isn’t Life always more complicated than that?” Michael shifted so he could better see how the sunlight brought out the red in Sarah’s hair. Sometimes it looked like she wore a halo of roses.

“Yes, dear, Life is complicated. But that’s one of the many things I enjoyed about Zero. Great character development. Hugo the government guy is sent to captain the Zero. He’s an ass at first, but I think he eventually redeems himself. Webb, his lieutenant, is reckless but smart. Only they don’t trust each other. Hugo thinks he’s always right, and Webb has seen too many captains make too many mistakes. The whole crew reads like a list of misfits who finally found a home: smart, dedicated, but outsiders. And trust is a big, big issue in this novel. Earning it, and losing it.”

“Like in the military where everyone is dependent upon everyone else for survival? Band of brothers and all that?”

“I suppose. I wasn’t in the military.” Sarah took Michael’s left foot and began to massage it, but absently. She had a tendency to be flippant, a characteristic she knew annoyed Michael. She was trying to curb it. Michael was trying to let it slide when she failed.

“Yes, obviously you weren’t. Still, how far does this go?”

“Oh, the trust issues are all over the place. There’s a whole conspiracy that Hugo isn’t even aware of, and the reader is taken along for that ride as well. You don’t know until Hugo knows what the hell is going. It’s a fast-paced novel, too. Collyer really knows how to keep the action going, and the worlds she creates are amazing. They are so familiar, with the industrial ghettos, people living and working under Dickensian conditions while, on other planets, the well-to-do live very well indeed. She integrates futuristic technology with contemporary mechanics: spaceships and motorcycles.”

“She?” Michael was now leaning forward, and Sarah just realized that his feet had slipped to the floor of their deck, her hands massaging air. She dropped her hands and squinted at Michael.

“Yes, she. What? Big tough Marine can’t imagine a woman writing an action-packed, character and plot-driven novel?”

Michael laughed and rubbed the back of his neck. He hoped it would not be too much longer before Sarah would understand he thought more highly of women than of his own sex.

“Of course, I can. But it piques my interest a bit more.” Michael leaned back and brought his right foot up to rest on Sarah’s lap. Without hesitation, she began to knead. He opened the book again, to the first page.

“So, is this part of a series?”

“Yup, she’s coming out with another installment quite soon. Called Haven. You’ll understand the title once you’ve read Zero.”

“Movie rights?”

Sarah laughed. “That would be wonderful, but actually I would prefer Zero as a TV series. Easily, this novel could be one whole season. So much happens, and when you get to the end, you just want it to keep going. You’ll be so entangled in the lives of Hugo, Webb, Rami, Kinjo … you want to know what happens next. It can’t be the end of the story. Like with Firefly. There’s still so much to tell … .”

Sarah’s voice trailed off as she realized Michael was no longer listening. He was reading.


The same will happen to you, dear Reader, when you pick up a copy of Zero and start reading.  You’ll quickly lose yourself in the fantastic worlds of Zero.  And while you’re at it, follow Collyer’s blog at The Path, where she also shares some flash and short fiction as well.

You can find Zero at Goodreads and Amazon.  Get your copy NOW!


Ten Things Not to do on Memorial Day Feat. Marie Ann Bailey

Memorial Day, for those of us in the United States, is just around the corner. To get you into the spirit, my good friend John Howell has the following list of things not to do on Memorial Day, a list that he and I collaborated on last year. Enjoy!

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Last Year Marie Ann Bailey and I did a simu-publish of what not to do on Memorial Day. I was constructing a new one for this year, and it occurred to me that last years was pretty suitable. So here is last year’s and I must say the advice seems pretty relevant. Thanks, Marie for helping with this one.

a memorial day

Top Ten Things Not To Do On Memorial Day

10 On Memorial Day, do not accept an invitation to your boss’ house for a picnic even if you think it will be good for your career. If you do, at best, you might just have an awful time. At worst, you might be pressed into service as one of the wait staff.

9 On Memorial Day, do not accept an invitation to your friend’s parents’ house on the lake. If you do, at best, you might be subjected to uncomfortable questions…

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Cover Reveal: Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts by Charles E. Yallowitz #fantasy #adventure

Shades of Beowulf! Charles E. Yallowitz has a new story coming out soon at an Amazon Marketplace near you … and for only 99 cents! The cover alone is worth so much more … the story, no doubt, will be priceless!

Legends of Windemere

Coming on June 1st for 99 cents!

Ichabod Brooks &amp; the City of Beasts (Cover by Nio Mendoza) Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts (Cover by Nio Mendoza)

In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.

Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.

The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.

Author PhotoAuthor Biography

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York…

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Turn your volume up loud …


Prose Poems: A Question and An Answer #poetry #MondayBlogs

For my online poetry class last week, we discussed the “prose poem.”  Now I remember from (way) back in the day when I was intrigued by prose poems because they seemed less intimidating than the usual poetry forms.  Prose poems seemed more like writing flash fiction or flash nonfiction.  Something I could do without having to worry about meter and foots and stuff like that. 

One of the discussion forums presented three examples of prose poetry as a “slippery bean”: too far one way and it becomes flash fiction; too far the other way and it may become a lyrical essay.  Then the question: “Is the prose poem’s proximity to other genres the danger of the prose poem or the benefit of it?”

Those who know me well know that I don’t care for how (any) writing is categorized.  Read on for the three examples and for my response.  Finally, if you’re still with me, read to the end for my own “prose poem.”


Prose poem by Charles Simic:

I ran into the poet Mark Strand on the street. He immediately challenged me by drinking a glass of wine while standing on his head. I was astonished. He didn’t even spill a drop. It was one of the bottles Baudelaire stole from his stepfather the Ambassador in 1848. “Is this what is known as subjective reality?” I asked. Years ago this same Strand translated a famous Quechua poem about a man raising a fly with wings of gold in a green bottle, and now look at him!

An excerpt from a piece of flash fiction, “Continuity of the Parks,” by Julio Cortázar:

He had begun to read the novel a few days before. He had put it aside because of some urgent business conferences, opened it again on his way back to the estate by train; he permitted himself a slowly growing interest in the plot, in the characterizations. That afternoon, after writing a letter giving his power of attorney and discussing a matter of joint ownership with the manager of his estate, he returned to the book in the tranquility of his study which looked out upon the park with its oaks. Sprawled in his favorite armchair, its back toward the door–even the possibility of an intrusion would have irritated him, had he thought of it–he let his left hand caress repeatedly the green velvet upholstery and set to reading the final chapters. He remembered effortlessly the names and his mental image of the characters; the novel spread its glamour over him almost at once. He tasted the almost perverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line from the things around him, and at the same time feeling his head rest comfortably on the green velvet of the chair with its high back, sensing that the cigarettes rested within reach of his hand, that beyond the great windows the air of afternoon danced under the oak trees in the park. Word by word, licked up the sordid dilemma of the hero and heroine, letting himself be absorbed to the point where the images settled down and took on color and movement, he was witness to the final encounter in the mountain cabin.

A lyric essay (section of a book-length one) by Maggie Nelson from Bluets:

Some things do change, however. A membrane can simply rip off your life, like a skin of congealed paint torn off the top of a can. I remember that day very clearly: I had received a phone call. A friend had been in an accident. Perhaps she would not live. She had very little face, and her spine was broken in two places. She had not yet moved; the doctor described her as “a pebble in water.” I walked around Brooklyn and noticed that the faded periwinkle of the abandoned Mobil gas station on the corner was suddenly blooming. In the baby-shit yellow showers at my gym, where snow sometimes fluttered in through the cracked gated windows, I noticed that the yellow paint was peeling in spots, and a decent, industrial blue was trying to creep in. At the bottom of the swimming pool, I watched the white winter light spangle the cloudy blue and I knew together they made God. When I walked into my friend’s hospital room, her eyes were a piercing, pale blue and the only part of her body that could move. I was scared. So was she. The blue was beating.

My response:

I’m reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver which is a long read not just because it’s a long book, but there so much poetry in the language of the narrative.  I don’t like “pigeon-holing” writing:  this is a poem, this is an essay, this is flash fiction.  I think prose poetry’s proximity to fiction (or nonfiction) enhances the read, at least for me.  Must it be one or the other?  If each of the three pieces Mary shared “works,” does the genre matter?  I’m not trying to argue.  It’s the lowest common denominator effect of classification that troubles me.  I work with data at my day job, and see daily the loss of information (poetry?) when we produce aggregated results, that data that speaks only to the largest groupings of people; for example, Hispanic, Non-Hispanic White, Non-Hispanic Black.  It’s a necessity in my line of work (public health), but it doesn’t help the people who don’t fit neatly into those categories.

My prose poem (submitted assignment):

I felt the staccato snap of each vertebrae in my spine as I lengthened and then twisted my torso in Trikonasana, Triangle Pose, and wondered how much longer I could keep looking up at the ceiling before I lost all feeling in my neck.  The yogi urges me to take two more waves of breath and then release—slowly—back up to Virabhadrasana II, Warrior Two.  Pause.  Then I am exhorted to drop my right arm down and behind, grazing my hand against the back of my left thigh, and lift my left arm, shining my heart to the ceiling for Reverse, or Proud, Warrior.  I inhale, then exhale, then inhale and slowly straighten my left leg for Stargazer, my favorite pose because it reminds of you.  I imagine us both reaching for the stars, me metaphorically and you literally with your fancy camera and telescope.  The shutter of your camera snaps in time with my spine.

Top Ten Things Not to do When It’s Your Birthday

Surely you or someone who you know has a birthday, at least once a year, right? Well, read on for 10 things NOT to do when it’s your birthday! Courtesy of John Howell 🙂

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The inspiration for this is the fact that all of us have a day of birth even those of you from another planet. So I thought we could all use a little advice on that particular day.

a bday-cake1

Ten Things Not to do When It’s Your Birthday

10 When it’s your birthday, do not tell anyone what you want for a present. If you do, at best you won’t get what you asked. At worst, you will get all kinds of things that are sort of like what you wanted but not quite.

9 When it’s your birthday, do not tell anyone you are feeling older. If you do, at best a well-meaning someone will plop a post on Facebook asking everyone to cheer you up. At worst, you will get all those people who are older than you telling you things like “you only live once, enjoy,” and “When I…

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A Long Slog #poetry #MondayBlogs

As some of you may know, I am taking an online poetry writing course through the University of Iowa (FREE!).  Just finished Week 3.  Being that the course is FREE, students have the option to do as little or as much as they want.  But if you want a certificate of participation, you have a lot to do:  post a minimum of 1 writing assignment per week; post feedback to 5 of your peers’ writing assignments; and post comments to 5 forum discussions.  So that’s 11 posts a week that I have to write, and the feedback/discussion posts have to have more content than just, “Hey, I really liked your poem” or “Hey, I’m really enjoying this discussion.”  And the certificate is NOT free.  It’s 50 bucks.  I’m not complaining about the cost.  Just wish I didn’t care/wasn’t trying to be qualified to pay it.  The long slog is me trying to keep up with this class while working a day job and having the heavy weight of other projects looming over me.

I have books to read and book reviews to write.  If you’re someone who is expecting a review from me, I’m doing the best I can.  If you’re not, then good. That gives me more room to breathe.

It doesn’t help that I was “conscripted” to contribute my crocheting “talents” to making something for someone I work for.  It’s doesn’t help that the deadline for that project is really looming (casting a shadow over what was to be a sunny weekend).  I only hope that by the time this post publishes, I’ll have met that deadline, which will give me more room to breathe.

So what am I getting out of this course that makes me willing to push aside all my other commitments for a few weeks?  Besides that the fact that it’s a good excuse for writing?

I can count the number of poems I’ve written in my lifetime on two hands.  But I feel pulled toward poetry for some reason, and so I slog on.

Here’s one of my assignments from Week 2:  making a poem out of a word cloud, as discussed by Carol Light.

My word cloud: assault fault naught caught brought bring brung rung dung human no-man ampersand neverland broken spoken forsaken waken waking breaking bleating repeating deleting meeting maker baker tailor mender contender relentless dauntless gauntlet junket monkey loving doves roves moves grooves moods fissures tissues issues

Here’s the “poem”:

Not my fault the assault caught
the mender, the contender
with his relentless bleating.
The junket monkey
moves in grooves
and fissures of moods,
meeting then deleting
the broken forsaken
human ampersand from Neverland.

One of my peers suggested I edit the poem to read like this:

Ignore the relentless beating

It’s not my fault
The junket monkey
moves in grooves
and fissures of moods,
meeting then deleting
the broken forsaken
human ampersand from Neverland.

I like this:

Not my fault.

The junket monkey
moves in grooves
and fissures of moods,
meeting then deleting
the broken forsaken
human ampersand

from Neverland.

Another peer suggested I look up calligram and maybe write the poem as an ampersand … wouldn’t that be a hoot?

Top Ten Things Not to do IF You Think You Are Going to Win a Contest or the Lotto

A cautionary list of what not to do if you’re one of those folks who like to play … the Lotto 🙂 Courtesy of John Howell!

Fiction Favorites

This list was inspired by reading a story about a person who had a dream that they were a Lotto winner and went out and bought new cars before the drawing.

a lotto

Ten Things Not to do if You Think You Are Going to Win a Contest of the Lotto

10 If you think you are going to win a contest or the Lotto, do not quit your day job until the drawing is over. If you do, at best your boss won’t take you seriously when you give a reason for resigning. At worst the Publisher Clearing House Award Team will knock on your door only to discover they have made a mistake, and your neighbor with the barking dog is the actual winner.

9 If you think you are going to win a contest or the Lotto, do not brag to your in-laws before the drawing. If you, at…

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