The Past Few Weeks Have Been BUSY

The past two or three weeks have been busy.  I went to MidSouthCon as a guest.  I visited Knoxville.  I skipped the St. Patrick’s Day parade (just too tired).  I starting subbing again, after not being in a classroom for years.  Two of my stories were published, and a third one was accepted.  I received a royalty check for a story published in 2015.  I need to update my website.  This will just be a quick overview.  I’ll do separate blog posts on the more important parts, with more pictures.


I was on two panels at MidSouthCon, and spent an hour on Pro Row, attempting to sell books.  I enjoyed the art show and was severely tempted by the dealers room.  I attended as many panels as I could, especially the writing ones.

Melinda LaFevers Susan Macdonald

My book-mate Melinda LaFevers and I, at MidSouthCon.  We’re both in More Alternative Truths, and I’ve reblogged her blogs once or twice.


My son’s college and my daughter’s high school had spring break the same week.  This isn’t the normal course of action, so we took advantage of it by driving to Chattanooga to pick up my son from UTC, having a late lunch at Dairy Queen, then going north to Knoxville.  We visited two or three museums, splashed in the hotel pool, visited some friends. and went bowling.


The famous Sunsphere, at World’s Fair Park, gives a magnificent view of Knoxville, TN.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

We returned to Chattanooga Friday of spring break week.  We took the kids to lunch at Mr. T’s Pizza (can’t go to Chattanooga without stopping at Mr. T’s), then took my son grocery shopping so he could restock his cupboard.  We kissed him goodbye and drove home.  The next day, I was supposed to march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as part of the Mid-South Renaissance Faire group, but I was too stiff and sore from spending most of the previous day in the car.  I didn’t think I could manage the parade route without collapsing on the curb and had to bow out.


After several years out of the classroom, I’ve gone back to substitute teaching.  So far my classes have ranged from Pre-K to 3rd grade to middle school special education to 12th grade drama.  I regret to say substitutitis has not changed since the last time I subbed, years ago.  I’ve lowered my standards.  When I first started my pedagogical career, I wanted to share my love of reading and teach the marvels of Western Civilization.  Then I wanted them to indent paragraphs.  Now, if the school doesn’t burn down on my watch, I’m satisfied, and if I manage to slip a snippet of information into their skulls, that’s icing on the cake.

I was beginning to get a bit worried.  It was supposed to take two weeks to get my fingerprints processed, but it was closer to three.  I was beginning to wonder if my FBI file was responsible for slowing things down.  Writers do have odd search histories, after all, and I have been less than polite to our current president on Twitter, Facebook, blogsInquistr articlesAlternative Truths, and More Alternative Truths.  Frankly, I’d be surprised if I didn’t have an FBI file by now.



I received my contributor’s copy of The Caterpillar, and have read some of the poems and stories in it to my students.  Cat Tails: War Zone is now available.   I had a story accepted by Fantasy for the Throne.  I am waiting to hear on about eight more stories, one of which has been short-listed (bumped up from the slush pile to someone with the authority to say yes or no).  I also received a small royalty check for a story I sold back in 2015, a pleasant if miniature surprise.


Writing Goals

I’ve joined (yet another) writing group on Facebook.  This one, the Iron Writer Challenge, encourages members to set eight specific, measurable goals, not only writing goals, but personal, physical, and emotional goals.  Here are my goals for the next quarter:

Goals for Q2:
1. (Writing) Work on novel. [Is one chapter a month too small a goal? I’ve just restarted subbing, which is adding to my budget but subtracting from my schedule.]
2. (Writing) Submit one story per month.
3. (Fitness) Get to Planet Fitness twice a week.
4. (Relationships) Date night with husband occasionally.
5. (Platform) Update website. Try to blog weekly.  {And here I am.}
6. (Personal) Attempt to sub 4-5 days a week. [This is an April/May goal. I’ll need a new goal for June; school ends Memorial Day weekend.]
7. (Wildcard) Clean house. Kitchen April, dining room May, living room June.
8. (Wildcard) Proofreading for B Cubed Press and other clients.

Toni Morrison quote

Until next week, au revoir.


MidSouthCon Schedule Is Up!

Larry Hoy and I will both be panelists at MidSouthCon.

Larry Hoy

Has been posted!!!   Yea!!!  (MidSouthCon Schedule – click here)

Some of the events you just DON’T want to miss.

Saturday March 10 11:am – There is a great panel that works to answer the tough question of:   It’s Written – Now What?

Saturday March 10 12:noon – I’m getting matched up with a collection of artistic types to discuss Discussing local groups and the benefits of working and socializing with other creators and creative types.

Sunday March 11 10:am – I ‘ll be trying to figure out —  Finding your Muse:  Story Inspirations.

I also have spots on Pro Row Saturday & Sunday at 1:pm

And if you can’t find me at any of those…  I’ll be helping out with the Memphis Writers Booth / Malice in Memphis Booth, and hitting as many panels as I can get into.

I”M STOKED – See you there!!

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“Slave to the Axe Song” Reading Period Open

As a rule, I don’t care for royalty only markets, because nine times out of ten you wind up writing for free. But this does look interesting.

Schreyer Ink Publishing


Schreyer Ink Publishing is kicking off 2018 with the opening of our 6th anthology: Slave to the Axe Song

Reading Period: Jan 1 – Feb 28
Publication Date: April 1
Payment: We run on a royalty split for anthologies. Payments are made every 6 months via paypal.
Word Count: Our word count is more of a guideline. We’re less interested in flash fiction than short fiction. Aim for 3,000-12,000 words. Don’t self-reject on word count. If in doubt, send a query using the contact form.
Theme: Classic Fantasy

We’re looking for classic fantasy themes and character classes: wizards and mages, barbarian warriors, knights and paladins, rogues and clerics. Think enchanted swords, ancient curses, epic battles, long-standing feuds, and heroic quests. Preference will be given to sword and sorcery style over steam punk or urban.
While we are looking for classic-inspired we still want your original take, your…

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My book-bro, Stuart Hardy, wrote this for MORE ALTERNATIVE TRUTHS, which is available for sale through Amazon. He also did a clever little video, explaining why a British writer would have a story in this anthology.


More Alternative Truths is a Short story anthology of weird stories inspired by the era of Alternative Facts. It features my new short story “A Beautiful Industry”. You can get in print and in ebook on Amazon right now.

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How to Make Everyday Anglo-Saxon Bread: Version 2 (Hearthcakes or “Kichells”)

I found this fascinating, and I’m going to be following all the links and looking for other blogs by the same writer.

The Early English Bread Project

Screen Shot 2017-05-13 at 10.00.45 Those round things in the lower left are the hearthcakes.  This supposed peasant woman is admonishing King Alfred for burning them, though they don’t look burnt to me.  And why is she making peasant hearthcakes if she’s rich enough to own that fancy carved wooden thing behind her?

In the last post on everyday Anglo-Saxon bread, I talked about making bread on a bakestone or griddle on the fire. It is worth emphasizing again: for as much as eight hundred years, from the fifth century up to the thirteenth or fourteenth (and for centuries more in some areas of Britain), this would have been the familiar, everyday bread known to everyone in the kingdom. More affluent people ate leavened bread instead — or in addition. But everyone would have regarded this basic flat bread as familiar, completely normal bread. You did not need an oven to make it, and you…

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Is DJT Ready to be President? IMHO, No!

Today is the last full day of B. H. Obama’s term. Tomorrow, about lunch time, D. J. Trump will be sworn in as President of the United States. In my opinion, DJT is not qualified for the position, and I strongly suspect he will last less than two years before resigning, being impeached, or death. (Irish betting site Paddy Power is giving 8 to 1 odds that DJT won’t last six months in the White House.) However, as of tomorrow, he will be the president, and I will try to respect the office, as little as I trust the man who will hold it. I have friends and relatives who say I’m overreacting. A writing acquaintance thinks he’ll be a good leader. An old high school classmate says I’m unfair in not giving him a chance. I have relatives who admit DJT is imperfect, but still think HRC would have been worse.

I hope they’re right and I’m wrong. For the sake of our future, for the sake of our nation, I hope to high Heaven I’m wrong.

Donald Trump at a political rally in San Jose, CA.

[Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images,  from my  Reagan endorsed over Trump article]

I, personally, am in little danger from DJT. I am too old and too chubby to attract him, and unlikely to ever meet him in person. I’m WASP, so I have less to fear than my African-American, Native American, atheist, Jewish, and Pagan friends. I have pre-existing health conditions, but not nearly as serious as some of my friends, who face death and/or bankruptcy if the Affordable Care Act is repealed without a suitable replacement ready to put in its place. But I have a son who just signed up with Selective Service (couldn’t apply to a state college without proof of doing so) and the man who will be Commander in Chief in approximately 24 hours has a thin skin, a short temper, and an apparent inability to take what he perceives as an insult without responding.

I know we’ve had presidents who were adulterers before, and some of them were good leaders, despite their despicable personal habits. I don’t remember any presidents who were as indiscreet about their infidelity as DJT has been with his three wives.

Donald Trump with third wife, Melania Trump.

[Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images, from my Trump’s feud with Cruz article]

President Grant went bankrupt after his presidency (presidents did not receive a pension at the time), but DJT has had six bankruptcies already. One or two could be understandable, but six, for a successful businessman, seems excessive.

“Like master, like man.” Many of his choices for his administration are unqualified for their posts. Many have conflicts of interest. Many have ungenerous opinions on LGBT civil rights and feminism. Indeed, many of my friends fear a President Pence more than they fear a President Trump.

I find Trump’s “bromance” with Putin troubling. I find the probability of Russian meddling with the American election disgusting.

What concerns me most are his ethics and character. DJT has had hundreds of lawsuits filed against him because of breaking contracts and not paying his bills. Any businessman will face some lawsuits, of course, both as a plaintiff and as a defendant, but DJT has decades of complaints that he has welched on debts and not paid employees and subcontractors what they were owed. His charitable foundation is under investigation for fraud. He made generous donations to state attorney generals who then conveniently dropped investigating the Trump University case, which wound up being settled out of court. He has multiple conflicts of interest, from the North Dakota pipeline to foreign debts. If he’s not an ethical businessman, how can he be an ethical president?

His character is “unpresidented.” He switches opinions like a weather vane, then denies his former statements, even when it’s recorded. He does not seem to know the difference between truth or falsehood, or if he knows, he does not care. Mrs. Clinton said he was too thin-skinned to be commander in chief, and for once, I agree with her. DJT is short-tempered, thin-skinned, and quick to respond (and overreact) to perceived insults. Those who know him claim his attention span is very short. He refuses to read long reports, wanting complex information condensed down to a single page. It is rumored he does not read books. He prefers Twitter over any other method of communication. He has a history of racist and misogynistic comments.

I am not a psychologist, so I cannot say whether he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I can say that he appears very self-centered and mean-spirited.

I am frightened for my country with Donald J. Trump in the White House. I hope I am wrong; I fear I am not.

[Feature Image via Pixabay]

Common English Surnames

I found this very useful for my current project, Damaris in Distress, especially the bits on prefixes and suffixes.

Cheryl Bolen's Regency Ramblings

For this week’s blog I’ve gone through my nineteenth-century Burke’s Peerage to compile a list of what I consider to be quintessentially English surnames.

During the years I’ve been writing novels set in Regency England, I have had a habit of giving most of my characters two-syllable British-sounding surnames. For example, my heroes have had names like Wycliff, Radcliff, Sedgewick, Allen, Pembroke, Warwick, Rutledge, and Agar. All of these names were proper British names. My perusal of surnames from nineteenth-century Britain seemed to justify that the most common names in the country, indeed, consisted of two syllables.

Some more common two-syllable names revealed in my recent examination include Wraxall, Balfour, Fletcher, Sempill, Stanhope, Crauford, Hervey, Mostyn, Sullyard, Stewart, Talbot, Sinclair, Seymour, Selkirk, and Cooper.

Frequently Used Suffixes

I also discovered a proliferation of common prefixes and suffixes of common English surnames. Let’s examine the suffixes first because, in my opinion, they’re…

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Advent 2016 Word a Day Challenge

My church is sponsoring an Advent Word a Day challenge.  The pastor has given us a list of 28 words, one from every day from November 27, the first Sunday of Advent, to December 24, Christmas Eve.  The challenge is to:

  1. Think about the word.  What does it mean to you?
  2. Take a picture of something that represents the word and share it on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. using the hashtag #TUMCAdvent2016.
  3. Be blessed by what others on the same Advent journey share.

Advent, after all, is not just a time for shopping for presents and decorating.  It’s a time for mentally,  emotionally, and spiritually preparing for Christmas.

So far I have posted a picture of Norman Rockwell’s Freedom of Speech painting for freedom, a YouTube link to Peter, Paul, and Mary performing the Hanukkah song “Light One Candle” for light, a photograph of a rainbow over the Isle of Skye for hope, a Tolkien quotation for lost, etc.

If you’d like to join along, here’s the word list.  I’ve been doing the Word a Day Challenge on my personal Facebook account, but not my professional account, and on Twitter @WriterMacdonald.

November 27 — hope  [First Sunday of Advent]

November 28 — freedom

November 29 — comfort

November 30 — lost

December 1 — wait

December 2 — light

December 3 —  look

December 4 — love  [Second Sunday of Advent]

December 5 — promise

December 6 — open  [St. Nicholas’ Day]

December 7 — darkness

December 8 — justice

December 9 — awake

December 10 — bless

December 11 — joy  [Third Sunday of Advent]

December 12 — delight  [Feast Day of Our Lady of Gaudalupe]

December 13 — pray  [St. Lucia’s Day]

December 14 — announce

December 15 — bring

December 16 — story

December 17 — dawn

December 18 — peace  [Fourth Sunday of Advent]

December 19 — follow

December 20 — near

December 21 — praise  [Winter Solstice]

December 22 — watch

December 23 — prepare

December 24 — rejoice  [Christmas Eve]

The featured image was the meditation photo for the First Sunday of Advent, and was taken by Marcus McAdam.

New Website!

Highland Heather Press has a new website! Highland Heather Press and Highland Heather Travel will be sharing a website:

Highland Heather Press is my small press (minuscule might be more accurate) for self-publishing. It’s already issued its first e-book, a collection of western short stories called Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid.  Due to some computer problems, my first children’s book, R is for Renaissance Faire, has been delayed, but I hope to have it out in both paperback and on Kindle by Memorial Day.

Highland Heather Travel is my husband’s outside-sales travel agency.  He’s a part-time travel agent who wants to be a full-time travel agent.

Legions of Leaplings

Slant News is going out of business.  I am therefore reposting my Slant articles on my personal blog, lest they be lost to posterity.

This article was originally published as “Leap Day Siblings Aren’t Just Uncommon, They’re Miracles?” on March 5, 2016.

Q:  What do you call someone born on February 29th?

A:  A leapling.

Q:  What’s better than one leapling in the family?

A:  Leapling siblings.

The odds of a baby being born on Leap Day are one in 1,461. This week, three American families who already had leapling children were blessed with a second leapling child.

Brandi Ellison of Bismarck, ND, gave birth to her second child, Abigail, on February 29, 2016. She and her husband Christopher were pleased and delighted, especially since their firstborn daughter, Annabelle, was born February 29, 2012.

I think we should play the lottery. It’s pretty crazy, we had no idea. When we first found out we were expecting with Abigail it was. We started figuring dates and it was like, ‘No way it’ll happen,’ and here we are,” said Brandi Ellison.

Jennifer Ginn of Lakewood, CO, gave birth to her son Antonio on Leap Day, 2016. Twelve years earlier, she and her husband Anthony had a son Giovanni. Antonio was born on his brother’s third birthday. The Ginns’ other four children have their birthdays scattered around the calendar.

Melissa Croff of Columbus, MI, gave birth to her second daughter, Evelyn, four years and a few minutes after her firstborn, Eliana. Evelyn was born February 29, 2016 at 3:06 a.m. Eliana was born February 29, 2012, at 3:33 a.m. Melissa said she and her husband Chad were “really excited and happy.”
This is the first Leap Day since she was married that Louise Estes of Payson, UT, that she isn’t spending the day in the hospital. Louise and David Estes have five children, three of whom are leaplings. Xavier Estes was born February 29, 2004. Remington Estes was born February 29, 2008. Jade Estes was born February 29, 2012. The Estes are one of only two families in the world known to have three leapling children. The Henriksen family of Norway had Leap Day babies in 1960, 1964, and 1968.

Leaplings can be parents and children, as well as siblings. For parents and children to share a Leap Day birthday, the odds are two million to one.

Michelle Birnbaum and her daughter Rose are both leaplings. Michelle Birnbaum of Saddle River, NJ, is 36 years old; she just celebrated her ninth birthday. Her daughter Rose is eight years old and just celebrated her second birthday.

Fred and Eric Shekoufeh, of La Mesa, California,  were both born on February 29. The father is 60 years old and the son is 20 years old. Fred is celebrating his 15th birthday and Eric his fifth birthday.

The odds of a baby being born on February 29 are one in 1,461. That makes leaplings above average.