Help Her! She Spoke French!

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in inspirational poop, writing exercises, writing life | 0 comments

Bonjour et bienvenue.

A few months ago I started learning French via the website Duolingo.

Anyone close to me knows just how amusing this is. I have a history of bludgeoning the French language. I’ve dropped out of two French courses. Small children have made fun of me for my particularly bad pronunciation. I can never keep the conjugations for “avoir” (to have) and “etre” (to be) straight.

My husband is from Quebec and speaks lovely French. When we were visiting Montreal, strangers would address him in French and then turn to me and speak in English, as if the words “Don’t even try” were stamped on my forehead. When people spoke French around me, I was sure they were making fun of me.

And still, I’ve always wanted to learn French.

On the outside, I laughed my French language inadequacies off (most of the time). I would say things like, “I’ve been banned from speaking French,” or “I’m wanted for murder of the French language.” Ha ha.

On the inside, I would shrink to the little girl me, feeling embarrassed and stupid. One time I lost it at someone for making fun of my American pronunciation of “croissant” one too many times. I tried to just let it go. Convinced myself I just wasn’t good at learning languages. Told myself I had numerous other talents.

window to the garden

artwork by Stefan Zsaitsits

I’ve had a fear of misspelling, mispronouncing, or misdefining words orally for most of my life. I’ve always attributed it to a specific event in third grade. Spelling Bee season. Each class had a spelling bee competition, then the winners would compete at each school, then each district, and so on until the National level.

It was my first time ever participating in a spelling bee, and I was eliminated in the very first round in the very first classroom level competition. I didn’t know what a “kiwi” was. I’d never heard of one before, so I had no idea how it was spelled. Crazy that for decades later, the same feelings of humiliation, embarrassment, and worthlessness could be conjured thinking about that moment.

(Ironic that I went into language arts education. What kind of masochist was I to go into a profession that required me to know how to spell, pronounce, and define words all the time?)    

I’ve told this story to friends before; it’s simultaneously sad and funny. But for a long time my gut would feel punched all over again if anyone ever said in response: “You didn’t know what a kiwi was?”

No, I didn’t know what a kiwi was.

What I’ve learned over the years is that even though this was a real life moment, the effect I allowed it to have over me was just a story I had been telling myself, which could, in particularly vulnerable moments, spiral into a deluge of negative self talk: I’m not a good speller, I’m not good at languages, I don’t know enough, I need to know more, my vocabulary sucks, people must think I’m stupid, I’m stupid.

I know I’m not the only one who beats herself up in this manner. I’m sure everyone has stories about their talents and abilities and accomplishments, or lack there of. How many of us chastise ourselves for not being “good enough” at something, for not being “good enough” period? I think it’s a rare soul who can just be what and who they are, have the abilities or inabilities they have, and be at complete peace. But perhaps we can get closer to that peace via acceptance or by taking on that which we fear.

Last year, after years of wanting to learn to play the drums, but feeling silly for even considering it, I started taking drum lessons. I’m doing it for no other reason than because it’s fun. I don’t need to join a band, make a living from it, or even do anything beyond jam (by myself or with others). I decided this year I could take the same approach to learning French. I don’t need to teach French or read French literature or even speak to French people. I can just learn for myself.

The thing about learning new skills is that there is always a curve. Sometimes, if that skill is particularly challenging for someone, they will give up when it feels like the wheels are spinning and they’re not getting anywhere new. Sometimes with children (and some adults, I’m sure) this frustration will disguise itself in an attitude of “This is stupid,” or “I didn’t really care about this anyway.”

With drumming, there were a few months I was completely frustrated. I could not get my right hand and right foot working independently of each other. I thought I would never get the hang of it. But since I didn’t have much attachment to being a rock star, I just kept banging away for fun and to get out of my busy monkey mind for a time. And what do you know, after a while, I started to get it. It started to feel like real, actual rhythm and music.

Three months after starting my online French adventure, I’m still not very good at speaking French. I still can’t always keep the conjugations for “avoir” and “etre” straight. But I’ve found that letting go of any expectation has allowed me to be able to do it just for fun, and I’ve committed to saying the words out loud and risk the mispronunciation. Every once in a while, I get something right without even thinking, and I realize that slowly, I am beginning to understand. And for once in my life that’s good enough for me.

What do you beat yourself up for not knowing or for continuing to struggle with when it seems easier for others? Where have you given up when you felt stuck?

*   *   *


What wound has shaped your character’s perception of themselves? How does that hold them back from fully expressing themselves or fully participating in life? What would happen if they came to a place of self-acceptance? What if they faced their fears head on? What might they then accomplish?


Set your timer for 7 – 15 minutes per start line
(I increase the time with each start line: 7 min, 10 min, 12 min …)

When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

(use any character, doesn’t have to be your protagonist)

The wound that shaped MY CHARACTER’S fears looks like…

MY CHARACTER is still emotionally triggered whenever…

MY CHARACTER feels stuck whenever they…

MY CHARACTER must face their fears when …

Something shifts for MY CHARACTER when they begin to…

happy writing


Life Savers

Posted by on Aug 2, 2016 in truth and beauty, writing exercises | 4 comments

“Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.” ~ Adam Phillips*

When I was growing up, there was a Life Saver’s commercial featuring a little girl watching the sunset with her father and just after the sun slips down past the horizon, she whispers, “Do it again, Daddy.” I’ve always loved that commercial. I easily placed myself under that tree at sunset with my own Dad, who I believed knew everything.

I hadn’t thought about that commercial for many years until after my father died. I was brushing my teeth when a vision popped into my head of myself on my own death bed, my father waiting for me on the other side, feeling an immense joy in having experienced the wonderful roller coaster of my human life. In my vision I turned to him and asked, “Do it again, Daddy.” As if he could control not only the earth and stars, but restart life itself.

One of the most painful things to me at the time of my father’s death was viewing all his unfinished business splayed around his office. Projects half finished, goals uncompleted, life interrupted and cut off. I started to want my own life back for all the things I hadn’t done or would do differently or to make up for all the times I had held myself back.

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 1.34.38 PM

illustration by Gizem Vural

My personal jury is out on reincarnation. I don’t not believe in it; I’m open to the possibility. But I’m more inclined to believe in things like cellular memory, or ponder how the air I breathe was also breathed by Neanderthals or that we’re all made of the same star dust. I’m more inclined to see the interconnectedness of all things or that all of life happens all at once.

Life feels too short at times, and time has gotten slippery as I’ve grown older. I’ve written several times about how, on his death bed, my father turned to me in a sudden lucid moment and said, From a baby to an old man is three days. I’ve divided those days and if what my Father says is true, and the years are merely days, then the months must be hours, the weeks minutes, and each earth rotation a second.

With so little time to live, I grew determined to fill my life up with doing, achieving, joining. I created a pressure to get things done and not leave anything unfinished, even though my own father happily spent so much of his time alone in his garden and greenhouse. It has only been in the past few years that I’ve discovered the secret to having more of life is doing less and being more.

I used to wonder how older people could just sit around and watch grass grow. Hours on park benches, hours on porches, hours in the garden. But now I, too, find myself pulled in the direction of stillness and silence. Instead of filling myself up with things to do, I feel the need to retreat and enjoy and let go of what used to simply feed my ego and my time.

This doesn’t mean NOT participating in the world, it’s just another way to participate. One that allows, at least for me, a way to cherish and appreciate what is. Living in each now moment has opened me up to magical connection and synchronicity. And living in process (rather than product) and community with creativity, whether it’s writing, communicating, observing, or simply breathing allows, ironically, for more fullness, not less.

*FURTHER READING: In Praise of Missing Out



Where has your character lost touch with the “now”? When does ze obsess about the past or worry about the future? Where does ze try to fill in the silence for fear of missing out?


Set your timer for 7 -15 minutes per start line 
(I sometimes increase the time with each start line: 7 min, 10 min, 12 min …). 
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.


My Character feels disconnected from the world because …

The first/last time my Character felt connected to the world was when …

My Character over-worries about …

My Character fears ze will never achieve …

My Character regrets that ze …

When my Character slows down, ze discovers …

Happy writing!

**I decided to use gender neutral pronouns in my workouts from now on. I was tired of writing “he or she” and “him or her” or alternating… plus I was leaving out my gender queer friends or anyone who has a gender neutral character. My preference is “ze/zir.”








Queer as Folk

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in truth and beauty, writing exercises | 6 comments

A few weeks ago I attended an art gallery opening for queer artists. I started chatting with a lovely, quirky woman about upcoming events for our local Pride Week. As we then talked about where we were from and the kinds of things I taught, she awkwardly fished for something else, but I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. Finally, she got flustered and said, “I’m trying to ask if you’re queer, but you’re obviously not, because you’re not picking up on any of the language.”

“I don’t know the secret handshake either,” I deadpanned.

She laughed and offered to demonstrate.

She had caught me off guard. The thing was, neither “yes” nor “no” felt like the right answer. Neither would have been sufficient in expressing my personal journey nor revealing the truth of who I am.

I answered her question:

I’ve always been just me. And I’ve always believed everyone else is just who they are. I’ve loved all kinds of people, but I don’t label myself anything. I’ve tried; it’s never felt comfortable. And I can’t speak for anyone but myself.

As soon as I am categorized, people will assume things about me. I’ll even assume things about myself. Or I’ll try to shape myself into what others think people “like me” are supposed to be.

I don’t think humans exist in binary systems. Each of us lives on multitudes of continuums. Humans are complex and individualized and we assume so much about each other. I’d much rather meet each person as an individual, listen to their stories, and let them surprise me with who they are.

By the expression on her face, I thought I had pissed her off. Then she shook her head into a laugh and said, “If everyone thought that way, the world would be a better place.”

She handed me a flyer for the Pride Picnic.

I like watching birds and the sky, playing the drums, art galleries, dragons and jellyfish, clever rhymed couplets, and Doctor Who. That doesn’t tell you anything about my sexual orientation, my race, gender or religion. It just tells you that if you like watching the birds and the sky, playing the drums, art galleries, dragons and jellyfish, clever rhymed couples, and Doctor Who we probably have something to talk about.

And even if you don’t like any of those things, isn’t it our differences that keep life interesting?

~     ~     ~


Who does your character assume things about and why? What does that character assume about zir? How does this create conflict between them?


Set your timer for 7 -15 minutes per start line 
(I sometimes increase the time with each start line: 7 min, 10 min, 12 min …). 
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.


When Character A meets Character B ze assumes . . .

When Character B meets Character A ze assumes . . .

Character A is afraid Character B will . . .

Character B is afraid Character A will . . .

Their assumptions create problems when . . .

Character A surprises Character B by . . .

Character B surprises Character A by . . .

Happy writing!

*I decided to use gender neutral pronouns in my workouts from now on. I was tired of writing “he or she” and “him or her” or alternating… plus I was leaving out my gender queer friends or anyone who has a gender neutral character. My preference is “ze/zir.”

Learn more and join the discussion on gender neutral pronouns



Road Trip Book Tour: Part Two

Posted by on Apr 4, 2016 in Book Tour, novel adventures, Road Trips, Tips for Indie Authors, weekly workout, writing exercises, writing life | 0 comments


WINNER of the ROAD TRIP book contest is DEBBY DODDS (how in the world could I resist a book about John Waters hitchhiking?).

~      ~      ~

The first Road Trip Book Tour post was more about the Road Trip, this post is more about the Book Tour itself. Even if you never plan to go on a book tour in your life, the information may be helpful in other ways.

I’ve been book touring for six years. And for many years before I started, I led workshops in schools, conferences, and festivals, performed live spokenword, and produced literary arts events. I was used to organizing events, traveling around, and speaking in front of others. But doing these things may scare the pants off of you.

It doesn’t have to.

My tours are set up in collaboration with my publisher in terms of ordering and shipping books, but I arrange almost all the events myself. And the truth of the matter is I prefer it this way.

I’m the one who can “sell” myself best. I’m the one who knows what kind of programming I can deliver. I can answer any questions and share my enthusiasm for what I do. It is in my best interest to speak to the venues myself.

Calling prospective venues or speaking to someone in person has a much higher success rate than simply sending cold emails.

Tip #1 – give your event booking the personal touch. Make connections


In this age of information overload, it’s challenging for a new author to be heard. I believe that the old fashioned way of meeting people is the best: face to face. When we feel connected to someone, we are more invested in them. I think you have a much greater impact when you show up and share yourself with others.

Setting up an indie tour is not easy. It takes tenacity, creativity, and patience. That’s why I also advise you make your tour fun. *See someone you haven’t seen in a while. Take a side trip. On this year’s tour I’m meeting my 2-year-old niece for the first time and spending a weekend with five women I’ve known for 40 years (hilarity ensues!).

by Smadar Levne

by Smadar Livne


Here are some other tips from my The Authorpreneurial Booktour workshop:

  • Assess your talents, knowledge, experience, and expertise
  • Think about who you know
  • Think outside the (bookstore) box
  • Keep trying (persistence pays)


How comfortable would you be performing in front of 300 elementary students? My response is, Bring It On! But many people would run screaming in the opposite direction.

If you are uncomfortable speaking to large groups of people, then don’t. Find a more comfortable number and go from there. After a few small author events, challenge yourself with larger and larger audiences.

Start small. Develop one talk/presentation and one workshop. Create a program around what you already know. Everyone has something to share and teach. Do you play an instrument? I had an introverted YA fantasy writer in one of my workshops who played the harp! I suggested she bring her harp into the schools and teach the students how to write fantasy ballads.

Does your book feature origami? Skateboarding? Juggling? Ballroom dancing? I know an author who learned how to escape a straight jacket for one of his presentations. How does what you already know relate to your book? Offer a talk or workshop around a niche topic that will help you stand out.

How might your life experiences dove tail into a book tour? I love to perform, so I wrote a bunch of songs around my stories. And that’s how I entertain 300 elementary school kids.


Where should you go on tour? I start with places where I know people. I sofa-surf a lot when I tour. Not only do I get to visit with people I haven’t seen for a while (see *why go on tour), friends have kids or friends or friends with kids. This helps build an audience. Friends know the area and can connect you with others.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family want to help you. And it’s easier to book something when you’ve been referred by someone else.

Do be sure not to expect your friends to wait on you or attend all your events, though. Be gracious and kind (and bring bottles of wine).


I hate to be the disturber of debut author dreams, but bookstore readings are not the be-all and end-all of the book tour. Unless you’re reading in your hometown or someplace you already have a fan base, you might find yourself reading for 2 people. Think about it – – how many times have you been to a book store reading for an author you’d never heard of?

I can say from experience, it’s a bit humbling.

If you REALLY insist on setting up bookstore readings out of town, two things that have helped me to get an audience are: 1) Pair up with a local author or two for a joint reading/launch or 2) do some other local events prior to the reading to generate interest.

Better than bookstore readings, where your audience members might have to drive across town in traffic after work just to see you, think of places to visit where your audience is built in: schools (from elementary to university), book clubs, book fairs, conferences, festivals, etc.

I like to book tours around “anchor gigs.” These are gigs organized by someone else with inflexible schedules (like conferences or festivals or literary center events). Once I’ve decided where my anchor gig is, I make a contact list for all the schools in the area and start calling. I also search for any literary or youth centers. Then, only when I’ve got a few gigs in place, do I find an indie bookstore.

For instance, on my first tour I started at a book fair and conference. I purchased a book booth at the fair and taught two workshops at the conference. I then booked two gigs in an after school arts program, four in elementary schools, and one bookstore. The bookstore was small, which made it feel “packed” with 22 people. The bookstore reading came AFTER most of the events, allowing people to get to know me in a town where they hadn’t before.

I have led workshops, performed, and given talks in cabins, in the forest, at parent-child book groups, at schools, libraries, festivals, conferences, youth centers, art centers, detention centers, late-night programs, cafés, wineries, churches, and living rooms.


On my first tour, I made 47 cold calls in order to book 9 gigs. And I didn’t just call once and leave it at that. People are busy. I called, sent a follow up email, and called again. If that didn’t pique any interest, I moved on.

Have patience. Gigs will fall through. Keep at it. I literally just added an event TODAY for next week. Promote like the wind. Make a facebook page, announce gigs (even the private ones, so people know where you’ll be) through social media, tell the papers, offer interviews, ask if the venue has a newsletter, distribute flyers, email friends with said flyers.

And again… be gracious and kind.

If your first event flops: analyze, adjust, and try again. Before you know it you’ll have a file full of talks, workshops, and contacts and calendar full of bookings. It’s taken me years to figure out the best venues for my work and style, the most effective approaches for booking gigs, and the most successful curriculum for my readers.

~     ~     ~


If you don’t put your characters into situations that push their comfort zones, you’re missing an important element of fiction writing: tension. You’re also missing out on an opportunity for them to grow. You know the cliché saying “No pain, no gain”? Well, it’s pretty much true.


Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes per start line
(I increase the time with each start line: 5 min, 7 min, 10 min …)
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

What my character avoids doing more than anything is . . .

My character freezes up when . . .

My character faces his/her fear when . . .

On the other side of this fear, my character discovers . . .

Happy writing!

 ~   ~   ~



Posted by on Mar 23, 2016 in Book Tour, contests, novel adventures, writing exercises, writing life | 16 comments

For the first time in my book touring life, I am going on a “road trip” instead of flying, training, busing, and rental carring.

The Danika Road Trip is a special kind of road trip. Be forewarned when travelling with me. If I see a sign in Nebraska for the Pony Express Station or in Arizona for indigenous cliff dwellings, I will make a spontaneous side trip. World’s largest ball of twine? I’m there.

If I get off schedule, I will drive until I can’t drive any more and sleep in my car. I bring camping gear in case there’s a mesa I have to climb and get tuckered out. I WILL take the scenic route if one is offered. I WILL take the road less travelled (I almost got stranded in the middle of New Mexico when a sudden rain storm turned the dirt road into a slick mud bath). And if there is a sign anywhere for SALT WATER TAFFY, I will stop.


I adore road trips and Road Trip Stories. Every story is a journey, and the enjoyment of the story comes from being taken along for the ride. In this case a literal ride. Every story has an inward journey and an outward journey. For me a good road trip story (aka quest) entails the protagonist encountering a series of unexpected characters and events that precipitate profound change in him or her. What I love is both the anticipation of the unexpected and the twists those unexpected encounters allow.

Even if your character isn’t travelling cross country, you can use the idea of a “road trip” in a microcosmic sense. Perhaps your character is turned away at a club, her friends go in without her, and she must find her way home. When her car breaks down, she decides to walk, cutting through an alley and ending up in one unexpected place after another. On this journey home, she meets archetypal characters who lead her astray, give her tasks to complete, and inevitably teach her something new.

Archetypes are NOT stereotypes. The “gatekeeper” could be the bouncer at the club, the “wise sage” could be a garbage man who gives her a lift, the “trickster” could be a skater girl, the “matriarch” could be the waitress at the donut shop. Archetypes tell us why characters behave the way they do, not who they are. (COMMON ARCHETYPES)


Road Trips in Literature and Film

I think of Homer’s Odyssey as the original “road trip.” Lord of the Rings is also a road trip. Some of my other favourite road trip stories (in no particular order) include:

Libba Bray’s Goine Bovine
John Green’s An Abundance of Katherine’s.
William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways
Kerouac’s On the Road
Thelma and Louise
Little Miss Sunshine
Oh Brother Where Art Thou?
Big Fish

What are some of yours?


While on my road trip I decided to bring along four books to read featuring road trips (how meta of me, right?). So far I have decided on Station ElevenGoodnight Sunshine, and Flaming Iguanas

Help me decide on a fourth Road Trip book to bring along for the ride!

Mention it in the comments below (up to 3 suggestions). Any genre is welcome. I will choose the book I think complements the other three to create a diverse mix. (i.e. you might not want to pick The Road by Cormac McCarthy b/c I’m already reading one post-apocalyptic story). You may not pick one that someone else has already named.

The WINNER will receive a special souvenir from my Road Trip Book Tour along with a $10 Amazon gift card.


~     ~     ~


As with the example above, your character might not take a long distance journey, but you can still use the idea of a “road trip” to structure your tale. Give your character a goal (to get home, to buy groceries, to locate a lost dragon, to find the waterfall of longevity), trials and tribulations that stand in her way, characters that help or hinder, and redemption/change (i.e. the better self) through the experience.

Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes per startline

(I increase the time with each startline: 5 min, 7 min, 10 min …)
When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.

My character’s “road trip” begins when . . .

On this journey my character is delayed by . . .

Help appears in the form of . . .

By the time my character reaches her destination she has learned . . .

 ~    ~    ~

*ROAD TRIP BOOK TOUR: the series

This series will feature posts on what it takes to create a book tour as an author with an independent press (aka an “authorpreneurial” book tour). I will share my process and strategies and then take you on tour with me.

I have no idea what will happen . . .



Blog Tour Begins! Guest Post and Giveaway.

Posted by on Jan 7, 2016 in writing life | 1 comment




Today’s blog post on Perception and Intention can be found over at SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE – the first stop on my Book Four Blog Tour.

In this guest post you’ll find the usual writing exercise PLUS one more way to win a physical copy of Narine of Noe. 


Next Blog Tour Stop:

Tuesday, Jan 12
Guest post on Roger Eschbacher Books





Book Blog Tours Are Us! (+ new year writing exercise)

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 in Book Launch, Book Tour, giveaways, Narine of Noe, writing exercises, writing life | 0 comments

Hey . . . stuff!

Quick post to announce my official Narine of Noe blog tour kicks off this week and will run through February. I will post more dates/locations as they are announced. Please check out the blogs of these lovely book tour hosts. All of them are writers themselves who work hard and deserve recognition.FRONT COVER Bk 4-1

During the tour there will be multiple chances to win prizes (copies of Book Four or the Omnibus, other books and gift certificates. yay.).

Enter to win a copy of Narine of Noe on GoodReads (deadline Jan 10).

Enter to win various books by posting reviews (deadline Jan 31).

2016 Blog Tour Stops

Thursday, Jan 7
Guest post (and giveaway) on Smack Dab in the Middle

Tuesday, Jan 12
Guest post on Roger Eschbacher Books

Monday, Jan 18
Interview (and giveaway) on Kate Johnston’s 4 AM Writer

Thursday, Jan 21
Guest post on Laurisa White Reyes

Tuesday, Jan 26
Interview / Review on Everett Maroon’s Trans/plant/portation

Thursday, Feb 4
Interview / Book Exerpt on Kim Aippersbach’s Dead Houseplants



If you’re anything like me, both the end of a long writing project and the end of a long year mark a slow down in writing time. Put those two things together and I’ve got an ennui sandwich. Downtime is perfectly understandable, so is taking time to enjoy the holidays. However, my spirit knows it’s time to start writing again, but my mind and body are sluggish in post holiday indulgence haze.

When I get like this I know that ANY writing is good. I know that if I carve out some time and get my pen to a notebook that the ideas, inspiration, motivation, and joy of writing will all come back to me. I know because I’ve been here before many times.

That’s when I pull out my timer and use a tried and true invention of two of my favourite writing mentors Jack Remick and Bob Ray: The story I want to write is about…

Today, though, I thought I’d add a little twist, which I brought to the exercise during one of my Surrey Writers’ Conference workshops.

1)  Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Using the start line below, write without stopping and without editing. If you get stuck, just write about being stuck (gosh, I’m stuck, my mind feels like a piece of cheese…) OR just keep writing the start line over with a different response each time.

Start line: The story that wants to be written is about . . .

2)  Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Using one of the start lines below, write without stopping and without editing.

Start line: I often get in my own way (of being the writer/person/friend I want to be) by . . .


Start line: My protagonist often gets in his/her own way by . . .

3)  Set your timer for 7-10 minutes. Using one of the start lines below, write without stopping and without editing.

Start line: Breaking open my cage of limitations would look like . . .


Start line: Breaking open my protagonist’s cage of limitations would look like . . .

Happy writing and Happy New Year!


And we’re off . . . like a herd of turtles!

Posted by on Dec 10, 2015 in Book Launch, Faerie Tales from the White Forest, giveaways, Narine of Noe, novel adventures | 2 comments

Launching a book from a cell phone isn’t easy! Trust me on that one. My computer went into the shop 4 days before my launch and won’t be ready until next week! Doh!

I’m keeping this short and sweet until I can get my magic box back.

Let’s call this the softest book launch in White Forest history!

Ladies and gentleman, small and large humans, Narine of Noe is officially available TODAY!

In celebration, the publisher has listed the ebook price at $4.99 (regularly $6.99) through the weekend. As well, BOOK ONE is on sale for .99 through the weekend.

All official book launch events and parties will be in the New Year. We needed to get the book out before the end of the year, though. So… looking for a holiday gift for a 10 year old or a 10 year old at heart? (nudge-nudge, hint-hint)

Thank you Tony Ollivier, Kate Fink-Jensen, Kelly and Karyn Hoskins, Kristi FitzGerald, and Yvette Dudley-Neuman for being my early readers! THANK YOU to Jennifer Munro – who may just be the best copy editor ever. Thank you Julie Fain and Chris Fink-Jensen for the lovely cover. And last, but not least, THANK YOU Tod McCoy for being such an awesomey publisher.

Narine-official softcover cover

Narine’s Amazon Page

Narine’s GoodReads Page

Win a signed copy on the GoodReads GIVEAWAY

Shame On You**

Posted by on Dec 7, 2015 in inspirational poop, on my bookshelf, writing exercises | 2 comments

A few months ago I read Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and at one point she explains the difference between “shame” and “guilt.”  We feel guilt when we do something “bad,” which one can apologize for and move on. But we feel shame when we think we are bad. When we feel that as people we are not worthy, not enough.

Brown says the shame armour begins to go on around the middle grades when we begin being shamed by others for who we are. We internalize it to mean: I shouldn’t be this way, if I am, I’m not enough. I’m too fat, too skinny, not cool enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough.

The armour is new and awkward at first. As we grow into it, we get better at hiding. But even at 40, 50, 60 years old, our shame can get triggered and we’re back in 7th grade in that cafeteria.

“Shame is so painful for children because it is inextricably linked to the fear of being unlovable. For young children who are still dependent on their parents for survival—for food, shelter, and safety—feeling unlovable is a threat to survival. It’s trauma. I’m convinced that the reason most of us revert back to feeling childlike and small when we’re in shame is because our brain stores our early shame experiences as trauma, and when it’s triggered we return to that place.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Brown also discovered in her research that shame triggers for men and women differ. For men, the overarching message was that any kind of weakness is shameful. There was a whole slough of contradictory expectations for women that if they didn’t meet, triggered shame. For example, women, even in this more enlightened age, still believe they need to be nice, thin, naturally pretty . . . oh, and perfect. Be a perfect mother, wife, daughter.

I am aware of my own triggers around being “nice.” I very much want to be perceived as a nice person. I hate being perceived as not being nice. I hate when my good intentions are misinterpreted.

Even to me the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices. – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

So, here’s one of my own junior high school moments. 7th grade. My friends and I were eating lunch in a circle and we started a very small food fight among us. Just a few harmless grapes and such. But then suddenly I turn and I’m staring at a pair of jeans. I look up and this girl I hardly know slaps me across the face. “Look at my jeans!” she yells down at me, pointing to a splotch of yoghurt on her pants. “You got yoghurt on my pants!”

There was indeed a small splotch of yoghurt on her pants, but it couldn’t have been mine. I wasn’t eating yoghurt. She had singled me out for some reason. Slapped me, yelled at me. I didn’t understand why. I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I can’t recall what happened next, I know she stood there for a while with that yoghurt splotch in my face. Maybe I handed her a napkin, maybe I wiped it off myself. What I do remember is holding my embarrassment and shame in, rolling my eyes with my friends, and everyone nervously continuing the conversation. No one mentioned the slap to me then or ever. And on my way back to class, I told them to go on, I had to use the restroom, and in the privacy of a stall, I allowed myself to cry.

Being slapped meant I was bad and had done something horribly wrong. Only bad children got slapped. Everyone must have thought I had done something wrong, that I was a terrible person. But I hadn’t done anything wrong. I couldn’t contain those two ideas… I was a nice girl.

Even writing this 35 years later, I can feel my eyes well up. Why?

Have you seen the movie Inside Out? I think for me that slap is a “core memory.” Or, in dramatic writing speak, it’s one of the wounds that shaped my life.

I never wanted to be slapped ever again, especially not in front of my friends, so for years I went out of my way to be nice to people, to not rock the boat, to not hurt anyone’s feelings. I hated for anyone to think I was mean-spirited, selfish, unfair, uncompassionate… and it was a stake in my heart when someone either misinterpreted my intentions, or called me out – because God forbid I did something that wasn’t nice to someone!


Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes per start line (I recommend increasing the duration each time from 5 to 7 to 10 minutes as it encourages the work to go deeper each time)

When you start your timer write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out. (just do it!)*

Start lines:

1) The WOUND that shaped my character’s life happened when . . .

2) The secret shame he/she feels around this incident manifests through . . .

3) My character fears that if this shame is revealed then . . .

4) The moment my character faces this fear and exposes his/her shame is . . .

Now write your next scene . . . :-)

*If you want to try various ways of writing try short sentences, long sentence release (no punctuation, just connect everything by conjunctions), or listing.

**Post posting note – I subscribe to my own blog via email to make sure the posts are going out. This morning I woke up to an email from myself with the subject line: Shame On You. I had an immediate physical reaction to seeing those words and was curious as to if anyone else had a reaction. I considered changing the title to be “nice” and spare people from feeling bad about themselves. lol.



Trusting the Process

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Book Launch, Narine of Noe, writing exercises, writing life | 2 comments

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I haven’t posted in over four months. That’s the longest break I’ve taken since I started blogging ten years ago. And it’s not for lack of wanting to, it’s because life happened (moving, working, family stuff, etc) and I was in the middle of a crisis of faith with Faerie Tales from the White Forest Book Four.

Or really, I should say a crisis of trust.

Faith and trust are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Faith is known as the “substance of hope.”  It’s very nature is that it requires no evidence, one just believes. Trust is based largely on evidence from previous knowledge/experience. For example, you might trust someone because they’ve never given you a reason to do otherwise. You generally trust your friends not to stab you in the back.

I did not like book four while I was writing it. I honestly thought it was a hot mess. At one point I called it the “suckiest piece of suck that ever sucked.” Half-way through my first rewrite I nearly called my publisher to tell him I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t finish the book, I couldn’t figure out how to deliver it from hot messness.

Instead, I called one of my author friends, the one I always call on because she entered the world of children’s literature a few years before I did, and she always tells me the thing I need to hear. She told me: Danika, you know how to do this. Trust the process.

Trust the process.

This is what I always tell my students. I proclaim to them that “creation is messy!” I’m a process junkie. I’m all about the journey. I usually find editing the most inspiring part of writing, my editing skills applied like wielding a wand. But this story was being a difficult child. It was too confusing, too convoluted, too complicated. There were too many continuity issues between Book 4 and the rest of the series, and I thought I could never address them all. I was totally overwhelmed.

I took a break from my rewrite and read the first three books over again. I took copious notes on continuity issues and typed them up. Every time I started a new chapter I read over those notes and pulled out the ones that applied to that section.

And one by one, each note was addressed (or dismissed) and crossed off. It took months. When I got the first draft to the copy editor, it didn’t feel real. And the day I reached the last sentence on the last draft before it went to the publisher, I burst into tears.

Somewhere during my final rewrite, I realized what the story was about. It was a story about trust. I was in my kitchen when I realized it and I stood there for a full minute reveling in the irony. The idea of trust appears over and over again throughout the story. Imagine that.

Launch date for Narine of Noe is Dec 5th.

Send a note to if you’d like an ebook review copy. Please specify pdf, mobi, or epub format.


Where is the moment in your story where your character loses trust in themselves or someone/something else? Is it a cheating lover? A friend who steals? A failed attempt at something? A writer who has written five novels who suddenly can’t see her way through her latest manuscript? Is the trust lost for irrational reasons? Over a misunderstanding? Over prejudice?

Set your timer for 5 -10 minutes per start line

When timer starts: write, don’t stop, don’t edit, don’t cross out.
(just do it!)*

Start lines:

1) My character has a hard time trusting (in general, self, or specific person) because . . .

2) My character’s trust is broken when . . .

3) The cage my character creates for her/himself due to his/her lack of trust looks like . . .

3) My character doesn’t/can’t learn to trust again until . . .

Now write your next scene . . . :-)

*If you want to try various ways of writing try short sentences, long sentence release (no punctuation, just connect everything by conjunctions), or listing.