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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dragon's Posterity

When I first opened Kandi Wyatt's book Dragon's Future a few years back, I thought I'd start the first chapter and continue on my way. Ten chapters later, I looked up and literally had to force myself to put it down. Today I'm pleased and excited to share the cover of Kandi's new book Dragon's Posterity, which will go on sale December 6 and is the final book in the Dragon Courage series.

Win a free giveaway here.

The Story

Is there really a right way to braid leather? Ruskya doesn’t know anymore. Is it worth fighting over? Twenty-one winters ago, he was ready to take on the turquoise dragon rider, but now he fears facing his oldest son.

            Kyn, Ruskya’s youngling, wonders if he’s going crazy when an image begins haunting his dreams. Soon, he realizes it may be the key to helping not only Ruskya and his son Ardyn, but all younglings and their trainers as they adjust to growing up.

            Will Kyn be able to help Ruskya, Ardyn, and the other young riders? Follow your favorite characters from the exciting Dragon Courage series as they empower the next generation and give dragons to their posterity. 

About Kandi Wyatt:

Even as a young girl, Kandi J Wyatt, had a knack for words. She loved to read them, even if it was on a shampoo bottle! By high school Kandi had learned to put words together on paper to create stories for those she loved. Nowadays, she writes for her kids, whether that's her own five or the hundreds of students she's been lucky to teach. When Kandi's not spinning words to create stories, she's using them to teach students about Spanish, life, and leadership.

Fool's Errand: A Sneak Preview of Book 2 in the Beat Street Series

Just for fun today, I thought I'd share the first pages of part two of the Beat Street Series, called Fool's Errand. It's a few months after book one ends, and Ruby's friend Sophie and her mother are missing.

The story follows both Ruby and Sophie through a perilous time when the Blacklist ruled in American life, and made entertainer's lives especially miserable. Because Sophie's mother is accused of being "unAmerican," both she and her daughter have to leave New York and try to survive while far away from everything and everyone they know and love.

Under a Bridge
Sophie is missing.

I don’t know for how long, but I know she’s gone.

Soph is my best friend in the world, since forever. Not exactly a Beat ‘cause her mother was rich but she was the best comedy writer in town and the best mom to Sophie. (Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I wish she was my mom).

If you want to help me look, her name is Annie Tanya. I call her Mrs. Tanya because, you know, that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re talking to a friend’s mom.
I say she was rich because the money Mrs. Tanya made is gone, and that happened because they fired her at her job. Something about the Blacklist, which is dumb because Mrs. Tanya doesn’t care about politics. 

Funny isn’t easy, she always says, but she makes it look that way. She’s written for a ton of TV shows and is mainly the only lady comedy writer in the world. She worked with some pretty amazing writers like Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Neil Simon and a few years back wrote for Your Show of Shows with Sid Ceasar and Imogene Coca. A producer named Max “discovered her” and brought her into the business, pretty much. I know every big shot in town is named Max these days, but that really is his name.

Sophie’s mom is also beautiful, by the way, like a dark-haired Doris Day, and I always thought she could be a great actress. But Sophie’s the real actress in the family. And since both of us were little, Mrs. T tried out her jokes on us and made us laugh.
Here’s what I learned works best when you’re trying to be funny:

·         Bad jokes work best in the middle of an argument.
·         Hiccups can be funny, but not as funny as you think.
·         Jokes about politicians and people and things we know
·         Things we think and never say
·         Saying them in funny voices (Sophie’s specialty)

     But no one knows if Mrs. T is going to get the chance to be funny any more because of the Blacklist—which isn’t something you can find laying around, but it exists the same as we do. You can only mostly get on the list if someone in Congress accuses you of being a Communist and un-American. I think that means they think you’re conspiring with Russians or something and scheming against the U. S. 

And it didn’t just happen to Mrs. T. this year—it happened to a ton of people. Her producer Max is in trouble too. The weird thing is, nobody thought this stuff could even happen in 1958. The Blacklist has been going on for like ten, twelve years after it was started by Senator Joe McCarthy. He picked out these 10 actors and scared them into naming their friends and labeling them Communists.

If YOU’RE on the list, you lose your job. And it’s probably impossible to get anyone else in movies or TV to hire you.

Plus some people even go to jail for it.

You might have neighbors ganging up on you – especially in suburbs  with all those people who want everyone to CONFORM, which means going to work and wearing ties and if you’re a woman, staying home in a dress and making JELLO.

In Greenwich Village, here, Beats try to do the opposite of conforming. But everyone knows the blacklist is really about people like Joe McCarthy trying to make himself look powerful. It’s gone on so long, though, some people really believe it. 

Other people are getting sick of the list and some writers are starting to get hired again. So the last thing anyone expected was for Mrs. Tanya and her producer Max to get canned. 

For as long as I’ve known them, Sophie and her mom were going gangbusters through the world. Mrs. Tanya was making pots of money. That’s why Sophie got to live in a really cool apartment down here.

They lived in the Village because Mrs. T. really loves the old buildings. And even if she wasn’t exactly a Beat Generation lady, she was an outlaw, in a good way, not a blacklist way. She didn’t do anything you were supposed to do if you’re a lady, like having a husband or being a housewife or anything like that.

Sophie wants to act in TV shows, like Imogene Coca or Lucille Ball. Everyone thinks she’ll be really good at it, because if there’s one thing Sophie knows, it’s how to make you laugh. She can tell a stale joke and have you on the floor howling in three seconds flat, just because her delivery is so funny. She kind of makes her mouth flop and tilts her head, and opens her blue eyes wide behind her glasses and you’re just laughing—even if you have no idea why.

But neither Sophie or her mother have been laughing a lot lately. Mrs. T. lost her job about a month ago, two months after my birthday on April 12. She’s been trying hard to find some other kind of writing job, ‘cause there ARE writers on the list working on the Q-T, underground, so to speak. That means they write something and no one knows it’s them. They have a pen name, but they still get a pay check. 

Except most of the writers are cats—I mean guys—not ladies. So Mrs. T. just can’t find anything. She started waitressing, but it hardly gave her near enough what she needs to pay bills. Plus (between you and me), she’s a pretty bad waitress, which makes sense, because she never did it before.

When Mrs. T. had to stop working at the TV station, she couldn’t pay her rent and Sophie and her mom had to leave their apartment. And without a husband to help, Sophie and her mom are in a pretty bad way.

Of course Nell-mom said they could crash at our place for a while—I’ve got bunk beds now and there’s a fold-out in the living room—and they were here for a couple of weeks. Mrs. T kept trying to be a waitress, but customers complain she’s slow and instead of giving her a chance to get better, they fired her.

Mrs. T. told my mom they couldn’t impose on her any more, even though Nell-mom said we were in no hurry to get rid of them, which I didn’t like because it sounded like they were pets or something. But then Mrs. Tanya said she thought they should go to New Jersey because they have relatives there. Except Sophie told me later that’s a story.

Now it’s June and school’s out, which is good, because Sophie and me and our friend Gordy were really looking forward to being free for the summer. This year was the first time any of us had ever been to a real school because our parents let us learn stuff from the owner of a store called Blue Skies in the neighborhood. 

I’ve told you before Beats don’t usually do what everyone else does, unless a social worker makes us. Which is what happened and why we had to start school. But today was our last day and Gordy wanted to get sodas at Rocco’s to celebrate, even though we’d only been in school for a month and half. I think I can speak for everyone and say that was more school than any Beat should put up with and we wish we didn’t have to go back in fall.

Sophie said she’d see us later ‘cause she wanted to go home and see her mom. That was the last I saw of her, walking down Bleecker heading over to Charles, getting smaller and smaller as she walked away.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Somewhere to Go

One of the hardest feelings I think most of us wrestle with involves feeling stuck, It could be a living situation, job, relationship or something else -- but whatever it is, being stuck means you can't figure out how to get rid of it.

Sometimes it just feels like you're swimming upstream, and it knocks out all your creativity and joy. Sometimes it even knocks out your ability to be creative altogether (at least, it does for me).

When I'm feeling this way, I try to remember what I heard once when I was in line at a theater, trying to get tickets for a play I hoped would not be sold out. Someone was talking to a friend ahead of me who remarked on being stuck in this line. The response he received has stayed with me:

"You're only stuck if you have somewhere to go."

Something clicked for me as soon as I heard it.

Because if you have somewhere to go, you at least have the possibility of getting there. If you have nowhere to go, life would be pretty awful.

If you're feeling stuck, or your kids say they're feeling stuck, you might want to remind them (and yourself) of this.

If you're trying to get somewhere, there is more than one way to do it. And you don't have to do it all at once, either.

It could mean you have to plan something out and it may take months, or years. It could mean working more than you want to right now or gathering the courage to leave a job and go out on your own. It also means you will need the strength of will to get there and that's not easy--I know.

Being stuck may drive you crazy. But at least it means there is somewhere you want to go, and once you know that, you can start mapping out a couple of ways to get there. Another thing I do when I feel stuck is ask friends what they would do. And a lot of times, their perspectives help me turn things around.

That doesn't mean every problem has an answer. Sometimes you really are stuck, but I don't believe that means forever. It just may be for longer than you'd like.

For advice on getting unstuck (as parents and kids) I found some articles:

Helping Your Kids Get Learn How to Less Stressed and Unstuck

Helping Your Kids Get "Unstuck"

4 Tips to Get Unstuck from Parenting Struggles

Trap photo: royalty free

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Locating Heaven

I don't know if you're showing up here because you need cheering up or you're already cheery, but for a raft of reasons, I needed cheering up last week. Took a little jaunt with my husband and lo and behold! You never know what you'll find when you sally forth.

Last week, my husband Pete and I found heaven. It was inside an old, converted foundry in Northeast Minneapolis. We'd driven by a coffee shop we wanted to try and stopped there for some lattes. 

Besides coffee, we found corridor upon corridor of stores, art, theater and dance coops and a brewery, among other things. But we didn't expect to find Heaven in suite 147.

We can't actually vouch for what's inside, because the door was locked and we couldn't get in. So we can't tell you if there was a stairway, harps, bluegrass, classical symphonies or opera singers; angels, seraphim, God or Jesus or anyone Else in there.

We don't know if we should take being locked out as a sign or something, either.

We did see a little pamphlet at the entrance to the building that described all the businesses. It said "Heaven" was a studio.

Maybe Heaven IS a studio and you're supposed to learn to dance there. 

Maybe we'll call ahead next time. 


Meanwhile, if you're in need of distractions as the holidays get closer, and/or you want to find a strong, feisty female role model for your niece, daughter, young friend or the adults in your kingdom, check out The Beat on Ruby's Street and other middle grade books at this link. All e-book editions are on sale for 99 cents:

Whatever else you do, and whether or not you find heaven? Have a real weekend. Have FUN.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Ten Cool-ish Reasons to Vote

I don't usually write political posts, and this one isn't going to name any candidates. But there is so much trouble with American turnout, and I truly, madly and deeply think we can do better. So... I created a little list of reasons that I hope will spur you to get to your polling booths this week:

First, the fun stuff:

1. You get to use a fat, arty-looking pencil. Who cares if it's attached to a string or not? It's FUN. And how often do you get to use big pencils to do something official?

2. If you do it with friends, you can find time to celebrate afterwards--with drinks, lunch, coffee or a dinner party.

3. You can use the vote sticker to seal an envelope when you send a "Thinking of You" card to someone who disagrees with your politics.

4.You can look forward to going home and watching TV without attack ads.

5. Unlike the Internet, voting is truly private. That means that no one, not your friends, your boss, neighbors, siblings, parents, or kids is going to know who you voted for. And you don't ever have to tell them!

6. If you're 18 and voting for the first time, you can tell younger friends and siblings how cool it was to vote. You can even exaggerate and make things up, provided you say things that can't be checked out later.

Medium fun reasons:

7. You get to see the other people who live in your neighborhood. This isn't usually possible unless you're on line waiting to vote. (I'm always fascinated by the people I didn't know who are living just a few blocks away.) Some could be interesting enough to make up stories about--and could even inspire a character or two in something you're writing.

8. You'll meet the cool people volunteering behind the desk where you sign in. Usually they're older adults who you might never meet otherwise. It's a chance to get rid of the stereotypes you carry in your head - and who couldn't use more chances like those?

9. If you're a parent, voting gives you the opportunity to have a "teachable moment" with young children, and inundate them with your philosophy before they get too old to disagree with you. One of the inalienable rights of parenthood.

Not as fun but most important:

10. Voting gives you the chance to put your stamp on the country's future. Yes. Literally. Bringing in the people you want to govern your laws, business, everything, moment to moment. Even one vote is extremely significant. For 1784, Thomas Jefferson put forth an amendment to abolish slavery in the U.S. The motion lost by ONE vote. Imagine if ONE more person had voted yes... 

Bottom line:



Young voter photo: benketaro
Vote photo: J. Zark

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Fighting Words

Are your kids fighting (right now)? Are you at a loss to stop it? I have wished many times I could have had more than one, but when I see kids on an endless fighting loop, I am sometimes glad that one was what I had.

My son's stepbrother came to visit periodically and everything went smoothly for the first part of the weekend and then jumped into stress and insanity for the second. This included things like the older brother (MY son) dangling younger brother over the roof.

Not good.

Though I tended to see younger brother as an angel, I am sure he had his moments too. Both my husband and I found it very difficult to referee (exhausted as we were from work and life) - so I don't think we did too good a job of calming things down.

Somehow, these boys grew up and are now very close and think the world of each other. But if they both lived here every day, I wonder how I would have controlled the craziness.

When you have more than one, do you have to be super hands-on about getting kids involved in the day's activities? Bribe them not to argue? Make sure there are sticky, nasty consequences for sticky, nasty fights?

Parents of twins, parents of more than one sibling, grandparents, baby sitters... how do you do it? I think I would be bald and frothing at the mouth after two days.

I once saw one of those "nanny" programs about a British nanny who came in and "fixed" a family. I should have written down what she did but I was too fascinated by watching and then forgot about it later. I do wonder if that family stayed "fixed?"

My husband had three siblings, two older and one younger. He describes his older sister as Angelica "You dumb babies!" from rugrats and talks about his older brother's sucker punch in the back when he would walk by. He also recalls being wrapped up in a rug and thrown down a laundry chute.

Did I tell you this before?

My own sister was seven and a half years older and didn't much want me around. We did have some fights but our age gap was so large we were probably better than most, and she left home to get married when I was about 12.

If kids are fighting incessantly, I guess I would try to save up as much money as I possibly could so I could move to another house.

But if you want better advice, I found some for you. And PLEASE jump in if you have your own ideas...

Six Ways to Stop Sibling Fighting

Your Kids' Constant Fighting Driving You Nuts?

Six Ways to Stop Sibling Bickering and Rivalry

(What is it about the number six and advice columns)???

Photo of children fighting: Steven Depolo

Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the Road: Traveling Wishes

My friend Mindy once told me she tried to be a traveler as opposed to a tourist when she left home for any period of time, and I always thought that was wise. Of course, you don't have to travel far to learn something about people, which is the point, I think, of going anywhere.

In Mark Helprin's book A Winter's Tale a young woman gets a job at the New York Times and is told to walk around the city all day, find interesting people and talk to them. I can't think of a better job for a writer-- or anyone else, for that matter.
And I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.

In The Beat on Ruby's Street, Ruby is fascinated with Jack Kerouac and his book On the Road because I think she understands the most important thing about travel is getting inside the heads of people who live completely different lives. Ironically, Ruby has hardly been anywhere beyond her home turf of Greenwich Village.

In book two, I'm setting things up so Ruby will have to travel nearly as much as Kerouac did. I guess I need to travel vicariously through her, but I also want her to share what she learns about people outside of her Beat-Generation community.

My own traveling life hasn't been nearly as extensive as I'd like, but I promised myself to try and see all the places (or at least half) that interest me in the next decade. My son and I both want to see every country that starts with the letter "I.".

Besides travel in the U. S., Canada and Mexico, I visited Paris, Amsterdam and a little Swiss village on a college trip and have been to Ireland and Israel since then, but that isn't nearly enough to make me the traveler I want to be. I just think travel teaches us (and our kids) so much more about the world than we could ever learn in school.

My son has been to Italy and Israel though college trips: a summer studying opera in Italy and two school semesters in Jerusalem. When he talks to me about meeting Palestinians and Israelis, traveling to border areas or singing for Italian audiences, I can see how his experiences changed and and are still changing him. I tell him my biggest travel wish is to get to Prague, because any country that elected a playwright for its president is a country I need to see.

If there is a way for your son or daughter to travel, and/or for you to go with them, I hope you will. If you can do it while they're in elementary school, all the better. And it doesn't have to be some exotic destination either--even walking around your city talking to people you find interesting could be a great experience. Because isn't the best travel about how far our minds can take us, wherever we go?

Ideas on traveling with kids can be found here:

Travel with Kids: Why You Should Do It and Do It Now

15 Places Your Kid should See Before 15