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Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena, Addresses Writer’s Block (conclusion)

The last two steps to combat writer’s block :

…………In a brief, it’s expected that you provide a synopsis of your book, as well as highlight any important visual elements within it. Don’t be afraid to play around with this! For example, if your project involves an epiphany, a revelation, or solution to a mystery, a cryptic cover that features a clue could be a way to “wink” at readers who have read the book and now understand the hint. Similarly, if an object plays an important role in your story (think of the cut-glass bowl in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story ‘The Cut-Glass Bowl’, for example), you should let your designer know about it, as they can brainstorm cover ideas that involve this object.
This is an entertaining and creative exercise to do when facing writer’s block because you’ll see certain aspects of your story in a fresh way after trying to synthesize your plot from a visual perspective. Envisioning a potential book cover for your project is guaranteed to motivate you —
not to mention it’ll probably come in handy later!

“Procrastination is unprofessional and a heinous habit…. If you are not a self starter or you cannot find it in yourself to show up for work on your own and deliver on time you should not pursue a writing career.” ~~Dorothea Benton Frank

#3.    Describe your reader avatar. In marketing lingo, a ‘reader avatar’ is your ideal, perfect reader. It’s a notion that every book marketer will remind you to consider as you narrow down possible target markets. For example, the perfect reader of Roald Dahl’s Matilda could be a bookish, moral, and playful child (just like the protagonist) or an English teacher, parent, or relative who encourages children to read and study hard for school. Once you’ve dreamt up your reader avatar, try experimenting with this “character” in a writing exercise! Narrate an ordinary day in their life, write a dialogue between your reader avatar and a friend, or try some poetry in the form of a dramatic monologue and see what their voice sounds like. Getting to know this avatar is a great chance to practice your characterization and dialogue skills, while also keeping them in mind for when the time comes to reach out to them! 

“Stop procrastinating! Okay, serious answer: Remind yourself that your book isn’t going to write itself. It doesn’t do you any good to sit around dreaming up every single detail of your plot and all the action and every line of dialogue. You’ll forget most of what you dream up, anyway, unless you write it down, and if you’re going to write down notes, you might as well just write the damn story.” ~~ Olivia Hawker 

#4. Write a review for a similar book.
If you really need to escape your project, you might even read another book in your genre and distill your thoughts in a review. You don’t have to publish it if you don’t want to, but do consider making it public since all writers appreciate getting a book review. Reading someone else’s work can be a uniquely revitalizing experience for a tired mind, and if their project is somewhat similar to yours, you might find yourself inspired to return to your work in progress. As for the writing part, it’s one of the best ways to support other writers and still train that word-generating part of your brain! Every piece of writing is an opportunity to structure your thinking with eloquence, so no writing effort ever goes to waste. No matter what you find yourself writing in your attempt to move past writer’s block, as long as you’re producing words, you’ll soon find your way through. Hopefully these four writing tasks can renew your excitement for crafting your book, while also inspiring you to think about its future marketing prospects. The key is to just keep going, one word at a time. Don’t lose hope!

Did you miss part 1?

 More good information, click here
Additional post about writer’s block
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena contributes…(part 1)

Guest Blogger: Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and giving (mostly) solicited advice to her fellow writers. When asked about where she lives and how many cats or kids she has, this was her response, “Sadly I have no dogs, cats, or kids, as my London flat isn’t quite big enough!”

Battling With Writer’s Block? Here’s four tasks to help kick start your writing again….

When you find yourself dreading going back to your work in progress, it may be time to switch to another writing task. Writing something different can provide the perspective shift you need to  able to return to your project without a feeling of miserable writerly drudgery.
Of course, these alternative writing tasks can still be related to your project, but it’s important that you allow yourself to take a break from the specific points in your writing where you’re encountering difficulties! Since the mind works subliminally, working on something that’s somewhat related to your project is an excellent way to keep exercising that writing muscle, while giving your brain the space to reorganize itself and find new inspiration. Here are four different writing tasks I recommend for anyone trying to break through writer’s block, while still keeping your project in sight.

#1. Draft a query letter to a literary agent
Your query letter is going to be critical when it comes to finding a literary agent. This letter functions as a pitch of your work in progress, and writing this pitch means two things. First, it forces you to distill the essence of your book. Trying to present your project to a total stranger involves taking a step back and re-assessing the bigger picture, which can help dislodge our tired focus from worrisome micro details and minor issues. Second, in describing your idea, you’ll hopefully be reminded of why you love it so much: in other words, you’ll get a chance to re-motivate yourself on the way. Of course, queries to agents are subject to some conventions and rules. To avoid remaining in an agent’s (or indeed publisher’s) slush pile forever, remember that your query should stand out for its content, not its structure. So make sure to open with a hook, followed by an exciting and concise synopsis of your book (check out some examples here).
Then make the case why you are the best person to be writing this book, and demonstrate your knowledge of the literary market by listing a few comparable titles — and don’t pick the most popular titles just because they appear to buff up your work! It’s much more effective to choose books that you feel are actually the most comparable to yours.

Since you’re just working on a draft letter for fun, you don’t need to worry about personalizing your query for its intended recipient. But when the time comes for this query letter to be sent, make sure you also talk about why you have chosen that agent specifically.

#2. Write a brief for a book cover designer
Another fun way to mentally circle the terrain of your ongoing project is to draft a cover brief. A strong book cover design is going to be a crucial part of your marketing later on, but for now, a design brief is a fun way to summarize your project. In fact, it’s not dissimilar to drafting a query letter, but with a distinctly visual focus.  To be continued…

“The first lie every writer tells themselves is this: I don’t have the time to write. The second lie is this: I can’t write. Here’s the truth: writers always write. Are you a writer? But you’re not writing? Then ask yourself this: why aren’t you writing? What are you trying to avoid by not writing? I promise you the answer is going to be some variation of abject fear.” ~~ Mike Maden writing for Tom Clancy

Don’t Miss Part II next week. 
For more helpful information. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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Writing Tips ~~ Write in Present Tense or Past?

write, create, writing, authors, blogThe best writers almost always seem to know, either consciously or intuitively, when to use present tense. Many of us, however, do not. Present tense has become something of a fad, and we often use it even when past tense would serve the story better. Whatever the causes for the prevalence of the present tense in today’s fiction, it is important that we understand its advantages and disadvantages so we can better decide when to employ it.

Present tense restricts our ability to manipulate time. Altering chronological order and varying duration both work against the primary purpose of present tense, which is to create the feeling that something’s happening now.

It is more difficult to create complex characters using present tense. While it is certainly possible to create complex characters in present-tense fiction, it’s more difficult to do so without natural access to the basic techniques that allow us to manipulate order and duration. 

The present tense can diminish suspense. Because present-tense narrators do not know what is going to happen, they are unable to create the kind of suspense that arises from knowledge of upcoming events.

I, as an author, am in the ‘past tense’ camp. I am always put off, and find it very distracting, when a writer chooses to write in present tense. And horrors of horrors, flips back and forth between present and past tense for no apparent reason.  TS

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‘Most stories are told using the simple past—was, walked, drank, hoped. Stories using the past tense are written the same way stories have been told for years—once upon a time, sometime before the present time, these marvelous characters existed and lived out a fantastic adventure. They did these things, these events are over, and someone can’t resist telling you all about these happenings and adventures.

When I say most stories, I mean the great majority of stories. Oral stories as well as written fiction are told using the past tense. It’s common to readers, it’s common to writers, and it’s been the prevalent format for storytelling for years and years and years.

It’s so common that readers don’t notice it; they simply jump into the story’s adventure.

The present tense—is, walks, drinks, hopes—on the other hand, is rare. Yes, we all know wonderful stories told using present tense. Yet in comparison to the number of novels that use the simple past, present-tense novels are few in number. Present-tense narration is also much more recent a practice.

From what I can tell from a quick survey of Internet articles, readers notice when stories are told using the present tense. I’m not saying, nor are those readers, that there’s anything wrong with the use of present tense. We are saying that its use is noticeable.

Choose the present tense if you’re trying for a unique feel to your fiction, but know the limitations. Know that readers might not accept your choice. Know that publishers might ask you to change your narrative tense.

Choose past tense when you don’t want to distract the reader, when you want to use the common storytelling method.

Don’t let fear hold you back. Use the narrative tense that works for the story, the genre, and your readers. Know what narrative tense can achieve.

Write strong stories.

Write powerful fiction.

(Thank you, Beth Hill, The Editor’s Blog)

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde.  August:  My interview with Susan Wiggs and September: Alan Foster (sci-fi)
 
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Inspiration in the Check Out Line…really?

Back in 2015 I wrote this post. It’s been getting some ‘clicks’ lately from visitors so I thought I would reprise it. When something or someone inspires you, grab hold and don’t let go?   

inspiration, writing, story telling, blogging, blogs, short stories,, short plays, life     The other day I was standing in line at the grocery store, minding my own business…preoccupied that I was leaving my dogs in the car too long….when I suddenly became aware of the man in front of me being checked out.  I had picked that line because it appeared that he only had maybe six items, (boxes of something) and I was eager to get checked out.  (the dogs…remember?)

Well, it turned out that in front of the ‘boxes’, and out of my line of sight, were two dozen very tiny cans of dog food.  It seems that you can buy three tablespoons of dog food in individual cans for your darling pet.  Two bags of doggy treats and then we were ready to ring up the boxes.

Those six boxes were actually fifteen (yes I counted every one of them; the dogs in the car, remember) boxes of Healthy Choice ‘nutritious, packaged dinners; microwavable, ready to eat  in just twelve minutes’. Fifteen boxes of over-processed, heavily salted, flavor enhanced, empty food.  The nutritional value in the dog food was probably better. I wanted so badly to take my bag of fresh spinach out of my cart and give it to him with my best wishes. But, wait, he wouldn’t know how to steam the spinach or for how long.

Well!  That made me take a closer look at the customer.  And by the time he paid ($86.13 for the dog food and the TV dinners, OMG!) I had half of a short, one act play written in my head.   

The man in my story is a newly widowed senior who was married for forty years and never cooked a meal in his life. 

He goes home with his sad little boxes of food.  He puts his delicious, processed dinners in the freezer to be enjoyed later in front of his fifty-two inch high definition television.  DogSpeaking baby talk he rips open the doggy treats and gives his overweight  shiatsu a goody.

If this sounds as if I am making fun…..no, no, no…it’s written with love as this is the typical existence of the widowed male.  A snapshot of life that gave me a great little story. And  the lesson to be learned, fellow writers, is to keep your eyes and ears open.  You never know when inspiration will strike!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May: Boo Walker, June: Anne D. LeClaire and July — Catherine Ryan Hyde
 
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My Letter to Charles Bukowski

A buffoon for a leader
Gauche, socially inept, dangerous
Waving his arms around trying to find words
In his non-existent vocabulary

A little yellow man waits, with a warhead,
To blow our west coast into the sea

The Russian bear awakes from a
decades long sleep
Sniffs around the buffoon and his
weak spots
Where to strike first?

Muslims take the rap for all the violence against the fat, over-indulgent, rich country and its infidels

A country known for taking in ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses’ locks its doors
Goes from house to house, plucking out the illegals, leaving families decimated
Children in cages
Has Hitler finally reincarnated?

Meanwhile the planet warms so that one can hardly recognize it

Dear Hank,
Nothing new here

TS: I found a letter Bukowski wrote back in 1993 which inspired me to answer him in 2017.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning, April: Poet, Joe Albanese and May: Boo Walker 
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Join My Blog for the Latest in Books, Writing Tips….

It’s easy. Use this link  http://www.writeratplay.com/ to sign up for my See the box on the right hand side? 

You’ll receive (in an email) weekly posts with the latest book reviews, tips about creative writing, and once a month an in-depth Interview with a best selling author or a new, upcoming writer.  Generous folks, famous and not so much (yet) have given of their time to answer my probing questions about their writing process. Fun and interesting candid photos, of the author, are sprinkled throughout the interview. 

Sometimes a post about something I thought was interesting…..But, ALWAYS to do with books, authors, writing, words, and live theatre.

My best selling post (over the past six years) has been my free tips about ‘How To Write a Play’. Thousands of people have Googled this phrase and come to my website to begin to learn this craft.

When I’m not busy with my blog, I am writing….every day. I practice what I preach! 
Short plays for the classroom, general fiction, children’s plays and fairy tales,  poetry and a true crime mystery series. Diversity is the
spice of life!  
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz. March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese

 

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Writing Non-Fiction, by Guest Blogger Kai Nicole

TS. I would like to welcome this wonderful writer with a lot to say about what most single people are thinking about. Enjoy!

When I think about the experience of writing a nonfiction book I have to look to my other experiences to try and figure out how to describe it. Honestly, since I am currently writing a script, which is technically fiction, I find that writing a nonfiction book is very similar. I think the major difference between writing fiction vs. nonfiction is the purpose for which they are written. Fiction is written for the purpose of entertainment whereas nonfiction is written for the transfer of information.

While I was writing my book, Date Like A Woman, my purpose was to share the knowledge I had around dating and relationships that I noticed many women didn’t have. My purpose was to give others an opportunity to “pick my brain” about dating without actually knowing me personally. Through my book I become a close friend that my readers become connected to. My book becomes a window to my thoughts and insight, not for the purpose of entertainment or escape as many fiction books are but as a resource and place of comfort to help my readers along the way.

I think this is the motivation behind nonfiction writers. We write to share information. And, if you are also entertained, well, that’s a bonus. However, whether writing fiction or nonfiction, you are drawing from your personal experiences. For me, I was not only drawing from my experiences but also from what I had learned from reading and research. The biggest difference between fiction and nonfiction books is that nonfiction books have to have evidence of being truthful and plausible. There has to be an effort to support the main premise of the book as true. Fiction doesn’t have this restriction. Nonfiction writers must be able to tout their “knowledge” as true, which is not an easy task.

Authors of both nonfiction and fiction must draw on personal experiences to create a story, nonfiction being a truthful story, fiction being a possibly true story. But, only nonfiction authors must back their stories up with evidence of truthfulness.

I am sure other authors, whether of fiction or nonfiction, can attest that when you are writing, you rarely just make up a false scenario. While the fiction writer may have the liberty to embellish more than the nonfiction writer, there is usually truth to every story. I am having this very experience now as I write my script. Many of the scenes that I am creating in my script are drawn from very real experiences in my life. While the story is fiction, much of what I am writing is true.

Now when it comes down to it, I don’t see writing fiction or nonfiction as easier than the other. Both require major effort on the part of the author. Good writing is a long and arduous process. As best said by George Orwell, “Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

And let’s just say, most authors, myself included, have a demon they will never get rid of.

Kai Nicole, Author

Date Like A Woman

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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Guest Blogger, Adam Durnham, on Writing

How to Improve Your Creative Writing Skills by Adam Durnham

Creative pieces are usually meant to entertain, but since readers often want more than mere entertainment, they expect literary pieces to challenge the mind and tickle the imagination. For some, writing or reading literary pieces could also be a form of art therapy.
Though these standards are quite simple, they may put more pressure on writers. The more advanced readers are, the higher the standards they set for the authors’ literary pieces.
Here are four tips that can help people improve their creative writing skills:
Do not underestimate your readers’ ability to understand and imagine
Leave room for your readers to imagine the back story, the motivation of the characters, and the exposition (the elements that explain the story). You don’t have to reveal all of these in graphic detail all at once. You can give clues or foreshadow some events in the story, but be careful about revealing every element at the start of the piece. Let your readers use their imaginations and formulate theories.
Identify the key points of your story, specifically taking note of the following:
i. What is the main goal of your protagonist? Try to create a protagonist who is interesting or unique in some way.
ii. What are the relevant actions your protagonist takes towards the completion of his or her goal? The protagonist of the story could make conscious decisions that drive and direct the entirety of the story.
iii. What are some unexpected outcomes of the protagonist’s decision(s)?
iv. What are some details related to the literary piece’s setting, tone, and dialogue that can help you reveal the story to the readers?
v. What is the climax of the story?
vi. Will readers find any morals from the story?
vii. How will the story end?
Pay attention to character development
To create realistic, multifaceted characters, it is important to understand and describe characters. To help you develop your characters, consider examining one or more of the following details:
● Name
● Age
● Appearance
● Family and relationships
● Ethnicity
● Drinking habits
● Likes and dislikes
● Strengths and faults
● Illnesses
● Hobbies
● Pets
● Phobias
● Religion
● Job
● Residence
● Sleep patterns
● Nervous gestures
● Secrets
● Memories
● Temperament

Including such details can make it easier to define your characters. They can help you mold your characters, build storylines, and create dialogue. You might want to consider

● Appearance: Create a visual understanding for your readers so that they can vividly imagine what the characters look like.
● Action: Instead of simply listing adjectives to define characters, describe the characters’ actions to tell your readers what the characters do and what they’re like.
● Speech: Don’t kill the story’s momentum by explaining the plot in great detail. Instead, try to reveal the plot through your characters and their dialogue.
● Thought: Show your readers how your characters think. Show them the characters’ hopes, fears, and memories.
Create a great plot
A story plot tells us what happens in the story. Writers establish situations, identify the story’s turning points, and determine the fate of each character.
Plots are the sequence of events arranged by the writer that reveal the story’s emotional, thematic, and dramatic significance. To create a great plot, it is important to understand the following elements of the story:
● Hook: The stirring or gripping problem or event that catches readers’ attention.
● Conflict: A clash between characters and their internal selves, or between different characters, or even between characters and external forces.
● Exposition: The back story or background information about the characters and how this background information relates to the rest of the story.
● Complication: A problem or set of challenges that the characters face that make it difficult to accomplish their goals.
● Transition: Dialogue, symbols, or images that link one part of the story to another.
● Flashback: Something that occurs in the past, before the current events of the story.
● Climax: The peak of the story.
● Denouement: The story’s falling action or the release of the action that occurs after the climax.
● Resolution: The solution of the external or internal conflict.

Writing can be challenging if you don’t know the techniques. It can be a form of art or art therapy if you come to master it. Techniques and tips can help you build the literary skill you need. Practicing them can give you the experience to produce creative, well-crafted work.
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss.  February: Rick Lenz, March: Patrick Canning and April: Poet, Joe Albanese
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New Journal for Your Baby & You

   My Baby & Me ~~~  A Journal for new Mommies and Moms-to-be

 

This journal is for you, Mother-to-Be. To write your thoughts and your feelings for your unborn child. Maybe write a few letters to your baby.

Pregnant women and new mothers inspired this author to create a journal just for them. To record their thoughts and dreams. What they first thought when they found out they were pregnant. What they experienced when they first felt their baby move. What the mother thought when she held her baby for the first time. There are wonderful quotes about pregnancy and motherhood on each page. There are pages where the mother can write letters to her unborn child. Two hundred-fifty+ lined blank pages just for you, Mom.

Great Gift idea!!

Available at all Book stores and online

 

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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   October: Alretha Thomas. November: Joe English. December:  Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick)  January: Molly Gloss and February:  Patrick Canning.
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Happy Father’s Day…..

Dear Dads and Grandads,

As you sit with your children or grandchildren today, eating Bar-B-Q or enjoying a picnic or having a traditional Sunday dinner with all the fixin’s….

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Look across the table at the little ones….now picture them torn away from your family/parents and segregated (by gender) and placed in concentration camps.  YOU don’t know where they are, you may not able to find them…ever.  Picture your six year-old daughter or granddaughter in a cage, alone, with 100 other little girls. Hard to imagine, huh?

Put ethnicity, skin color, legality aside for a moment. LOOK at your kids and picture them in concentration camps, locked up, defenseless…..alone. 

How does that feel?  What would your precious children be thinking? Feeling?  What level is their terror?

 

One news report stated that in order to get the children away from their parents, ICE told them the kids were being taken for ‘showers’.  That sent a chill up my back….at the German Camps the human line that was to be exterminated were told that was the line to go to the showers. But instead of water coming out of the nozzles, deadly gas was released.

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Read your history….this is how it all started in 1938 in Nazi Germany.

‘Once in power, Hitler moved quickly to end German democracy. (Sound familiar??) He convinced his cabinet to invoke emergency clauses of the constitution that permitted the suspension of individual freedoms of press, speech, and assembly. Special security forces — the Gestapo, the Storm Troopers (SA), and the SS — murdered or arrested leaders of opposition political parties (Communists, socialists, and liberals).’
(credit: https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/1933-1939-early-stages-of-persecution/)

Who’s next?  Your Jewish children? Your Asian children? Your Muslim children? Your Catholic kids?

My purpose, with this post, is to make the food STICK in YOUR THROAT!

 Is this our America?  A country built on the backs of Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Native Americans, Africans, Germans, Jews….all immigrants. With the exception of the Native Americans, there isn’t a person who lives in this country today who cannot trace their lineage back to ‘the old country’. We are all immigrants! Even our Beloved Leader, Herr Trump.

(I thought to myself: Gee, maybe I should apologize to my followers for digressing so far off my mission…to write about writing. But, no, I can’t. The idea of little precious children being placed in camps with an excellent possibility of never seeing their parents or siblings again STICKS in MY THROAT.)