Today, July 3rd, is Stay Out of the Sun Day. It seems strange that people who love the sun, outdoor sports and warmer weather would take a day in the middle of a glorious season to celebrate a cautionary day, but we do. Sometimes we can have too much of a good thing.
Today we are encouraged to be careful; to stay in the shade and give our skin time to rest from catching all of the sun’s rays. We are warned about skin cancer being on the rise and urged to protect ourselves with sunscreen, hats, long sleeves, shaded verandas and porches. To relax, but still enjoy the summer out of doors a hammock strung on a porch or between two trees is suggested.
The sun, as we know, brings heat. One of the things I love to tell people about is the way we protected ourselves from the sun and heat when I was growing up in the South. This was in an era when central air conditioning was virtually unknown. Only gradually had businesses and homes begun to install clunky, drippy window units. Stores had a decal advertisement on the door for Kool cigarettes. The penguin on it stated “It’s Kool Inside”, meaning you could buy your menthol cigarettes there and enjoy the air-conditioning.
At home, there were ways around the heat. People got up early, often before the sun to do farm work or housework before it got too hot. I still do that today. By the time the sun’s rays crept through windows, blackout shades were drawn except for a two inch crack at the bottom and fans were turned on. People hydrated themselves with classic Sweet Tea (not a good idea for dieters). Screened in porches or deep un-screened wrap-around porches adorned every home. In the American Southwest thick stucco walls kept out sun and heat.
The work schedules varied, too. In rural areas, the hottest work was finished by early afternoon. During the “heat of the day” people came home, ate a big meal, napped, and returned to work later until sunset – an American version of a siesta. When I studied in Mexico many years ago, the siesta system was still in effect.
What about the ancient world? How did our ancestors deal with the sun? The Ancient Greeks used olive oil. That practice lasted until the present day in many parts of the world. In Egypt, a lotion was made of a rice-like extract combines with jasmine and lupine. Zinc oxide paste was also known for thousands of years.
Early synthetic sunscreens were commercially introduced in 1936 by Eugène Schueller, the founder of the L’Oreal company but did not gain wide acceptance until the 1950’s with the ad campaign featuring the Coppertone Girl.
Back to ancient Egypt-- The sun personified was the god Ra in many forms for various parts of the day. Later under the rule of Akhnaten, the sun became less organic and was worshipped as “rays” and a solar disc.
The sun burned hot in ancient Kemet, day temperatures reaching 120 degrees on occasion. People used kohl around their eyes (see last week’s blog), wigs or a nemes, caps or hoods to protect the neck and head. Workers used oil or, in many cases, mud as skin protection.
In Opener of the Sky, I illustrate some of the sentiments of sun and even insect protection expressed by the Akaru Mtauthetep. For those who don’t know him, he is a foundling with some magical power, but because he is pale skinned and freckled, he needs extra protection from the harmful rays of the sun.
“Look at that…almost evening.” Marai remarked at the position of the sun in the sky.
“You noticed.” The Akaru added. “When one is thinking and learning, the day is often so short that one runs out of time before all else is done.” He pointed before Marai said anything else. “Look. I see young Djerah coming up the rise, too…or…is it?”
Marai scanned the path out to the river where the fishing boats were tied and the shaduf brought water into a canal for the fields.
Something covered with muck from the ditches was advancing. Some of the young men were throwing jars of water on each other to clean themselves, laughing and playing and then going to their homes after Djerah turned and thanked them. He came up to Marai and Akaru sweaty, wet, grimy and breathless.
“Have a good day?” Marai asked.
“Good enough.” Djerah gasped, mopping his face and spreading more mud all over it. “Flies are bad out here, though. Made us all dance. Had to keep the mud on us to stop the bites.”
“When you are clean, there’s an oil for the skin to keep the welts away. Xania can get it for you.” Akaru reached forward to inspect the few swellings he saw. “But you have good skin, so there aren’t too many bad places. I could never be out near the river without my ‘Stay Off Oil’. They love my spotty old skin.” He beckoned for Djerah to join them and to move toward his estate house.
“So what were you doing?” Marai felt at least happy that his younger companion had occupied himself. He knew Djerah loved physical work just as much as he did and although he had been interested in Akaru’s knowledge he wished for a moment that he had been out on the river with the young man.
“I took our boat out to check it and I saw some of the men bringing water to the fields, so I decided to help them with the lever; shore it up so it wouldn’t snap. Then I just got in and showed them some of the things we did to get the water to the builder’s stones so we could cut them sharp and one thing led to another and soon I was rutting out the channel for them.”
Last week we met authorand children's book illustrator Maxine Sylvester. Today we'll talk to Ronaldo.
1. Go ahead and introduce yourself.
My name is Ronaldo. I’m a reindeer fawn and a two snowflake cadet at The Reindeer Flying Academy.
2.Tell us where and when were you born.
I was born in the village of Beresford, eight years ago. 3. How would you describe yourself?
I’m about the same size as the other reindeer in my class… but my antlers are the biggest. 4. Tell us about where you grew up.
I grew up in Beresford. It has lots of snow in winter time so I go sledging a lot with my best friend, Rudi. Beresford is very colorful; all the buildings are bright and have patterns on the front doors. My house has a red door with white spots.
5. How old are you?
I am eight years and three months at the moment (not sure how many days). 6. Did you have a happy childhood?
Yes! Me and Rudi sledge when the snow is thick and I love going to flying school. There’s a reindeer in my class called Dasher, he’s really mean. He and his two brothers are the only bad things I can think of. 7. Past/ present relationships?
Rudi is my best friend. We met at Fawniwinks playgroup when we were small. He makes me laugh and is a bit accident prone. My hero is Vixen Pederson, he is the best flying reindeer, ever! I want to be just like him when I’m fully grown. 8. What do you value above all else in life?
My trophy collection, I have lots of cups and medals for flying! On second thoughts my granddad always says I should be grateful for my family and friends. (Should I say that instead? Is that the right answer?)
9. What are you obsessed with?
Flying! (And cakes, I particularly like carrot cake and carrot cupcakes.)
10.How do your beliefs make life better for yourself and the people you care about?
My grandad says, “Imagine! See it, feel it, believe it. You can do anything if you truly believe in yourself.” I find his words really helpful and think if other fawns believe in themselves they could be great flyers too. (On second thoughts I am not sure I want the other cadets to know this as they might beat me.)
11. Biggest fear?
Dasher, Comet and Prancer! When the three of them are together, they scare me.
12. What line will you never cross?
The one on the runway. I have to wait for Wing Commander Blitsen to blow her horn first. 13. What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Winning the Endurance Challenge. It was so cold in the sky but I really wanted to win the silver cup. My mum and dad and nan and grandad were very proud of me.
The worst? I had these brand new FLY-X goggles and Dasher and his brother’s waited for me in the woods and stole them. 14. Most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
I tripped over Rudi’s backpack once and landed face down in my mum’s carrot cake. I had fun licking it off afterwards and my mum wasn’t upset, she thought it was funny.
15. Biggest secret?
When I’m supposed to be asleep, I use a torch under my bed covers and read The Weekly Flyer comic.
16. What is the one word you would use to define yourself?
Brown… with a light brown nose. 17. What is your current goal?
To be a top flying reindeer, just like Vixen Pederson. When I’m grown up I want to be one of Santa’s reindeer team.
And a review!
Prepare to laugh out loud at this fun winter tale of friendship, sledging and flying!
Ronaldo is the top cadet at Flying Academy. He is on course to win the coveted Golden Snowflake medal and break the speed record. After the first of three speed tests, he discovers his carrots have been stolen. Ronaldo and best friend, Rudi, are determined to catch the thief. But Ronaldo doesn’t have far to look. The culprit is hiding outside his house… and it’ a creature feared by every reindeer – a wolf!
Ronaldo and Rudi are terrified, but the wolf cub, Ernie, is sad and lonely. She has lost her pack and it’s the coldest winter in two hundred years. Ronaldo agrees to hide the wolf in his bedroom, but he and Rudi must come up with a superhero plan to return Ernie safely home before his parents find out.
Rudi suggests flying around the Forest of Doom and delivering a message to the wolf pack during the second speed test. But it’s dangerous and Ronaldo isn’t onboard with the idea. He desperately wants to break the record and the plan means jeopardising his chance of becoming champion.
Will Ronaldo discover the true meaning of friendship or will he succumb to ambition and become the youngest flyer ever to break the speed record?
Just brilliant! One of the best self-published books I've ever read. A clever and witty story with excellent characters and plot. I recommend this to anyone looking for great children's fiction.” JAC- AMAZON REVIEWER
In my recent reading I discovered a great article in Writers helping Writers by Becca Puglisi. Here are some excerpts. To read the full article go to
There’s only one reason writers ever talk about outlining. It’s a tool that’s supposed to make our jobs easier. But it isn’t always clear how to accomplish that. Do you just start writing a list of events that might happen in this story? Do you create an actual Roman-numeral outline like you were taught in high school? But… isn’t that awfully arbitrary? And, as such, how exactly is it supposed to give you a great story right out of the gates?
Good questions, all. Perhaps it’s time we stop thinking about outlining as outlining and, instead, call it structured brainstorming. Outlining is a period of discovery, in which you get to explore the far boundaries of your story from a safe observatory post before diving headlong into the hurly-burly of the first draft.
The following three basic steps will help you create an easier writing process and brainstorm a better book.
Step #1: General Sketches
Before you can create a tightly structured scene outline, you must first discover your story’s big picture. You can do that by asking yourself the following questions:
What do you already know about this story?
Start by writing down everything you’ve already daydreamed about this story: full-blown scene ideas, characters, images that have flashed through your head, snippets of dialogue. These are the known points in your story, and from here, you’ll start filling in the blanks to create a cohesive and resonant whole.
What are the plot holes?
Once you’ve laid out all your existing pieces, you can examine the blank spaces in between and then start connecting the dots.
This is where you start asking yourself, “What don’t I know about this story?” If you know you want this to happen before that happens, then what must occur in between to create a realistic causal link?
Keep asking and answering questions until a well-formed story begins to emerge.
Who are the characters?
Purposefully explore your characters. Who are your leads? What do they want and why?
Pay special attention to your antagonists, since they will frame the entire conflict. They’re the ones who begin the conflict by standing in the way of your protagonist’s goals. But why are they standing in the way? What are their motives?
At this point, you don’t need to know everything about these characters. But plot, character, and theme must all evolve symbiotically. You can’t write a cohesive plot without also knowing how your characters are driving it in thematically meaningful ways.
What is the conflict?
The deeper you get into your exploration of character, the more clearly your conflict will begin to emerge. Conflict is not arguments or violence or even confrontation. Conflict is simply an obstacle placed between a character and his goal. When two characters’ goals interfere with each other, that’s where truly thematic conflict begins to arise.
What is the theme?
Theme arises from the intersection of plot and character. Theme is the summation of the character’s inner evolution, which, in turn, both drives and is driven by the outer conflict in the plot. As you begin to explore your characters’ inner needs and their outer desires, start looking for the corresponding Lie and Truth that will tell you what your theme is.
Step #2: Character Sketches
Once you’ve finished working through all the major story questions in the General Sketches, you’re ready to get down and dirty with your characters. I recommend interviewing them. You can do this “freehand,” simply by throwing them onto the page and starting a conversation. However, I find my best results when I use a guided interview process with specific questions. I have curated a list of over 100 questions, which I use on all my POV characters and antagonists.
This can be a lengthy process, but fully understanding your characters is key to bringing them to life on the page in purposeful and meaningful ways.
Step #3: Scene Outline
Finally, you’re ready to write the scene outline. When most people think “outline,” this is usually what first springs to mind. But as you can see, you’re not ready to write a scene outline until you’ve first thoroughly explored your story and brainstormed your way to its best options.
Your scene outline can be as simple as a sentence-long description. Or, like me, you may prefer to go seriously in-depth, working your way through the full cause-and-effect of proper scene structure, exploring your character’s motivations and reactions scene-by-scene, and equipping yourself to fully choreograph each scene when the time comes to actually write it in the first draft.
Your outlining process should be highly personalized. Figure out what you’re trying to accomplish and dig down to whatever level of information will best optimize your creativity in the first draft. Outlining is a tool to help you better understand and control your stories. But it should also be fun. Surrender to the wild possibilities of brainstorming and enjoy the ride!
This week I'm introducing Julie Whitley
1. Who are you as a person? (brief bio paragraph)
I am a retired nurse and live with my husband and my mother. Ten years ago, we adopted our lovely daughter as a teenager from Ukraine. That whole experience is a story of its own. We now have a young grandson, Hamish, and he is the love of my love. Upon retiring, I was thrilled to have the spare time to devote to painting in oils and watercolour, travelling, sailing with friends, scuba diving/snorkelling, skiing and golf. Life is full of adventures.
2. How long have you been a writer?
I started writing when I was 9 years old. My favourite way to spend a weekend afternoon? In my room, writing stories and poems and illustrating them. In high school, my most influential English teacher encouraged me to continue to write. With his words always in the back of my mind, I took creative writing courses throughout my early adult years until my career took over. I returned to school to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing followed by a Masters, but worked hard to keep academia from sucking the creative juices out of my writing. It often amused me to receive the comment “this description not suitable for a scientific paper.” When I finally retired, I wasted no time taking creative courses and building my writing muscle again.
3. Are you Traditionally or Indie published?
If not yet, what are you considering? I am Indie published. I am too impatient or perhaps time feels too short to wait out the process of submission after submission. The process of publishing and marketing has taught me invaluable lessons.
4. What writers inspired you? Favorite Authors?
Early favourites were Walter Farley, Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer, Mazo de la Roche and Hans Christian Andersen. I devoured everything these authors wrote. In Grade 8, I developed a passion for Shakespeare. In my adult reading, I have loved Maeve Binchey, Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, James Patterson, Michael Connelly. Influenced by my daughter, I also enjoyed many YA authors like Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, Suzanne Collins, Veronica Roth and Cornelia Funke, as well as the Narnia Chronicles, which I read as an adult. I don’t have a particular genre. What I look for are engaging characters in a vivid setting well described.
5. What is your book/series about (elevator speech or quick tweet post)
Three days to the full moon. A boy must find his parents. Together, they must stop a war to save their family. Is there enough time?
6. What is the setting and genre?
The genre is YA, but has enjoyed an audience with a much wider age range. The setting is a fantasy world beyond the mysterious portal in the woods on the family farm.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Besides my main protagonists, I think my favourite character is Pugg. He was strong and brave and had a quirky sense of humour.
8. What character is most like you?
I never thought of this before! I feel a lot of kinship with David, perhaps because he was the original character of the story and identify with his insecurities and his strength.
9. If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
The superpower I use in the story is the power of invisibility. It is the one I most wished for as a child, but as an adult, I think the superpower of visibility is more important. To be seen and heard.
10. Would you say your book has a message or underlying theme? What is it?
The underlying theme in my book is the strength of the family to overcome crises and obstacles together.
11. How are you marketing your book?
It has been a rollercoaster process and a steep learning curve. I have used social media and book signing events, as well as book fairs and street festivals and networking wherever I can. I have also managed to get my book on the shelves of several libraries.
12. A wonderful thing has happened! Hollywood wants to make a movie of your book! You get to pick the actors & actresses. You want________________for your lead characters.
Diane Lane for Sarah, Ewan MacGregor for David, Sam Elliott is Uncle Frederic/Gramp and Logan Lerman is closest to Jonathon.
13. What music do you hear (what songs) remind you of your story?
I often listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons when I write, but I don’t have a particular song that reminds me of my story. At least not yet.
14. What are you working on right now?
I am working on the sequel to Secrets of the Home Wood: the Sacrifice. It is called The Stalker. The three main characters are Jonathon, his Grandfather, Matthew and his best friend, Marly. Once again, war threatens his family.
15. What future plans do you have in writing?
To finish the Secrets of the Home Wood trilogy. I have some short stories and longer story ideas percolating.
16. What links or website do you have? List them below.
My twitter is http://twitter.com/AuthorJWhitley
My webpage is www.juliewhitley.com It contains all the links for my various purchase links, however the one most frequently used is:
And so another week comes to a close. Just wanted to mention the
Have You Heard's First Annual Indie Community Awards 2016
Largely through your efforts and votes, my third book Opener of the Sky has made it to the third round as Fantasy Book. I as Fantasy Author have also made it to the third round. This is open til July 19. At that time the top three winners in each category will be announced.
If you voted in Round one or two, the vote does NOT count.
You must vote again for me or one of the other four contestants. I can send you the links privately or you may go to the general site and cursor through (and vote for) all 68 categories. I’m just in the two. Whatever you do, show support, whether for me or another Indie author. It’s how we start to thrive!
That link to cut and paste: https://www.facebook.com/events/800002096833352/?acontext=%7B%22source%22%3A22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22[%7B%5C%22surface%5C%22%3A%5C%22timeline%5C%22%2C%5C%22mechanism%5C%22%3A%5C%22surface%5C%22%2C%5C%22extra_data%5C%22%3A%7D]%22%2C%22has_source%22%3Atrue%7D&source=22&action_history=[%7B%22surface%22%3A%22timeline%22%2C%22mechanism%22%3A%22surface%22%2C%22extra_data%22%3A%7D]&has_source=1&pnref=story