Laughter and Libations, 2019

Of all my favorite holidays, Christmas isn’t.  All the other December holidays come and go peacefully.  Unfortunately, there is something about Christmas that just brings out the worst in Christians.  The simple action of wishing someone “Happy holidays” has them frothing at the mouth, insisting everyone has declared war on Christmas.

This simply isn’t true.  No one has declared war on Christmas.  Christmas has declared war everyone else.

A short list of December holidays includes: Continue reading


Book Review: A Sharp Solitude

A Sharp Solitude, a novel of suspense by Christine Carbo
Available from Amazon for $12.99

Best Book I’ve Read All Year!

I picked up this book at random while perusing the library shelves and gave it little thought as I tossed the audio book into the front seat of my car.  It turned out to be the best book I’ve read all year.

In the Flathead region of Montana, a journalist has been murdered and FBI Agent Ali Paige is determined to find the killer. Unfortunately, the detectives with the County Sheriff’s Office have fingered Reeve Landon, the father of her child, as a person of interest, resulting in a conflict of interests that keeps her off the case. As the noose tightens, Ali must decide if she is willing to betray her partner’s trust in order to save the father of her child.  To avoid the law, Reeve escapes into the wilderness where he ultimately meets with disaster and needs to be rescued of the very agencies he’s been trying to aviod.  Continue reading


10 Tips for Beginning Writers

In every group of friends there is that one person who is always trying something new.  There was the new diet that failed, the new hobby that only lasted two weeks, and the new relationship that crashed and burned.  The reason all of these failed was because they were unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to make them work.  It’s no different for people who want to be writers.

It’s not uncommon to hear aspiring writers say, “I long to become a writer and land a traditional publishing contract, but I have never written a word and have no idea what to write about.  I just keep waiting for inspiration.  And, given all that’s going on right now, I just don’t have time to sit down and write.  Besides, I couldn’t bear to show my work to anyone.”

If this is you, then I cannot help you become a writer.  Like the dieter and hobbyist above, you already have excuses just waiting to be employed.  To quote Dan Poynter, “If you are waiting for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”

So, how does one actually become a writer?  The first step is to engage in less whining and more writing.  Abandon your high-faulting literary romanticism and vocal criticisms of the “lack of literary quality” in today’s published works.  No matter what you think of J.K. Rolling’s or Stephen King’s writing, the simple truth is they are making millions and you are not.  And understand that you will not be an overnight success.  As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, it takes 10,000 hours, or approximately 10 years, of deliberate practice to become an expert in your field, so be prepared to put in a lot time at the keyboard.

Now that we’ve got the excuses out of the way, here’s how to start writing: Continue reading


National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month.  Founded in 1999 with just 21 participants, the movement has grown to including nearly a million writers annually.

Each November, participants are encouraged to write an entire novel in just 30 days.  The goal is to complete a very rough first draft, which will be edited throughout the following year.  Participants start by registering on the NaNoWriMo website where they will be connected to a local Municipal Liaison (ML) who will inform them the dates and times of write-ins.  The write-in is simply times when groups of local writers agree to meet for the purpose of diligently writing their novels. Continue reading


Samhain 2019

Halloween is the only time of year witches are in vogue.  Suddenly everyone is interested in black magic, spell craft, hexing their neighbor, and a host of other things that bear little resemblance to actual Paganism.  Despite the annual autumnal uptick in interest in all things occult, Halloween isn’t a Pagan holiday.  That doesn’t mean we Pagans won’t dress up in costumes and join our Christian brethren in unholy revelry, general debauchery, and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but we do have our own holiday to celebrate, Samhain.

Samhain translates as sam, “summer,” and fuin “end.”   With fluttering leaves in shades of copper, amber, and crimson, there can be no doubt that summer is truly at an end.  To Celtic peoples the Feast of Samhain is a fire festival that marks the first day of winter and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Continue reading


Tips for Successful Book Signings

Reality Check: Unless you are on the New York Times Best Seller list, don’t expect book signings to bring in a ton of money.  So, if not for the money, why should the average Joe participate in a book signing?  Exposure.

Books don’t sell themselves.  If you are self-published, that also means self-promoted.  Small-time and self-published authors will likely sell less than 10 books at a book signing.  Many of the people who attend the event won’t even buy a book, they are curiosity-seekers, tire-kickers, and sometimes, just looking for a bathroom.  However, all the marketing and promotion that occurs prior to the event will help you reach new readers who may buy the book, even if they don’t come to the signing.

After hosting several book signings, I’ve created a list of tips and tricks for eager authors to help make their next book signing a success. Continue reading


Autumnal Equinox 2019

The timing of the Harvest Festival is a tricky one for Pagans, as harvest occurs at different times in different regions.  There is no specific date across Celtic culture that corresponds to a harvest festival, despite the fact that such festivals very much did exist.  Herodotus first mentioned the Celts in 5 BCE and noted that they principally lived along the upper Danube River.  At the time, their principal festivals, Imbolg, Beltane, Lughnasad, and Samhain, marked the changing of the seasons.

The connection between harvest and the autumnal equinox traces its origins back, not to Celtic, but to Germanic traditions.  Roman historian, Tacitus, first described Germanic people in 98 CE, placing them in upper Germany and Denmark, in an area which bears the name Angeln.  Like the Celts, the Anglo-Saxon Pagan year also contained four holy days to mark the changing of the seasons: Yule, Lencten Efniht (lengthening equal-night), Litha, and Haerfest Efniht (harvest equal-night).  Eostre was not recorded in the place of the Lengthening equal-night until the 8th century. Continue reading


Monsters Published!

After many delays, sabotage attempts, efforts to censor the book, and having endured intimidation tactics by school administration officials, the SFCC Pullman Campus Creative Writing Club is pleased to announce that this year’s anthology, Monsters, has finally been published.

In an email dated March 7, 2019, I learned that Dean of Student Services, Cynthia Vigil had gone so far as to contact the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Washington, who is reported to have told her she could not censor the anthology.  Attempts to do so violate the students First Amendment rights.  However, that did not prevent Ms. Vigil from pressuring students and faculty alike, nor is this is the first time faculty and staff have attempted to censor student work.  (See: “Concern, condemnation after Spokane Falls student newspaper reports on sex scandal.” Seattle Times.  April 5, 2018.)  Ironically, both censor attempts were for the same reason, the administration does not like being reminded that sexual predators are monsters. Continue reading


Book Cover 101

We’ve all heard the admonishment, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”  Whoever said that clearly wasn’t trying to sell books in the 21st century.  Regardless of whether it’s consumers, bookstore buyers, or the folks making nominations for the Worst of Amazon, everyone is judging books by their covers. Why? The simple truth is, a great book with a horrible cover won’t sell, but a horrible book with a great cover will.

Authors and self-publishers need to put as much thought into their book’s cover as they do the content between the covers.  The smartest thing to do is hire a professional cover designer.  This is because every book requires multiple cover files, how many depends on how the book is distributed.  The best recommendations for cover artist come word-of-mouth.  If you attend an author event and see someone with a cover that catches your attention, ask for the name of their artist.  Most authors are happy to share that information. Continue reading


The Trouble with FTEs

FTE stands for Full-Time Equivalent, which in academia represents an imaginary student enrolled in 15 credits.  The problem with claiming that funding should be distributed according to FTE and not based on what students actually pay in tuition and fees is that not all FTEs are created equal.  Imagine a situation where a community college has both a main campus and a branch campus.  For the sake of this exercise, assume that both campuses have 4 FTEs, meaning that students are enrolled in a total of 60 credits at each institution.

According the funding equation set forth by CCS Administrative Procedure 5.05.01-H and the Student Services and Activities Committee, students pay $11.28 per credit for the first 10 credits they enroll in, then $6.56 per credit for the next 8 credits, and pay nothing for any credits taken beyond that.  The breakdown for our imaginary 4 FTEs is below:

Continue reading