Archive for the ‘Other Thoughts’ Category

I was checking out another horror writer’s site and I found that they, too, have a series of rules for their writing. I was very impressed with their set of rules and wanted to share it with you, so check it out:

Rules of Writing by Graham Masterton

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Some thoughts on writing.

You know, I have heard both sides of the writing debate. The first side claims that writing is seriously easy. The other side claims that you need to “cut open a vein” in order to write. For me, both things occur. Sometimes ideas flow like water down a waterfall. Other times, it’s like trying to squeeze blood from a rock. Just like any other job.

Yes, you heard me. Writing is like any other job. Writing and job appear in sentences together pretty often now, but people still seem to think writing is a hobby of sorts, its not. Some writers take years for their books to actually take shape. Others can take as few as six months from scribbled pad to published work. The fact is that it is a job and it is both easy and hard. I seriously doubt that writers can get through one piece and say that they didn’t have any rough spots in the writing of it. There had to be at least one moment of either “I suck” or “What next” to jazz things up or we wouldn’t write in the first place.

Writing is a challenge. A challenge where you have to decide what words in what sequence work best to produce an image or idea in the reader’s mind. Sometimes those words and sequences of words come easy. Sometimes they come hard.

Don’t judge a writer unless you can truly say you have spent a day in their shoes. And we are talking about their shoes, not just the shoes of a writer.

1. GAUGE YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t make your story too “easy” for older readers or too complex for younger ones. It is easy to get lost in the tell of the story and forget who you are telling it to, so it is very important to keep your reader in mind.

2. INTERESTING BEGINNING. Try to find a unique way to open your story. This opening needs to, at the very least, set the atmosphere of the story.

3. KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. You should have a basic idea of your character, be it a name or an image, something that you can start off with. The more you know about your character(s), the more they come alive in your mind, and through your writing, in the mind of the reader.

4. KEEP THE STORY MOVING. The story needs vivid details in order to create a sense of reality within the reader. However, avoid becoming long-winded. Remember that you are telling a story and it must move forward.

5. THE END. A good story requires a good ending. Don’t try to draw the story out. Let it end where it needs to.

6. RELAX. You did a good job. Take a moment to catch your breath and pat yourself on the back. You have done what no one else in the world can do: you have written your story. Congratulate yourself.

Sumthun’ Scrumptious

Posted: October 6, 2014 by Cat Reyes in Other Thoughts

Well, a few days ago, we received a huge bag full of apples from someone’s tree. Since then, we have scratched our heads trying to figure out what to do with them all. The main idea we have is apple sauce or apple butter. We intend to try both of those. But in the meantime, we figure ‘let’s try some of these recipes around the net.’ Frankly, I am very glad we did. Why? These recipes aren’t half bad.

We made “Country Apple Dumplings” today. They turned out absolutely amazing. Got the recipe from Definitely a keeper…   Also, I messed up the last part and mixed the Mountain Dew with the sugar, butter, and cinnamon in the pot (ended up heating it all up) before drizzling over the dumplings. Don’t know if that makes a difference. We will be trying the same recipe the right way. Then trying it again with our own crescent roll mix (once we find one). Hope you all enjoy it as much as we do/did.


(The above photos are how they look out of the oven.)

We also made “Sauteed Apples” yesterday. They reminded me of apple crisp, without the crisp part. Very good. Also found on Have fun!

PS. I will try to remember to get you some pics next time… sorry folks!

There is an interview round robin going on every Thursday that is cool, I guess. Basically, on Thursday, someone interviews themselves and posts it to their blog then nominates three other writers with blogs to do their own interviews. The first writer links up the next three writers and on down the line like a pyramid. The idea behind it is to drive traffic to other blogs. I think that this would have been a really awesome idea if we were to post other author interviews on our blogs rather than our own, but hey, I didn’t make up the rules. I also chose not to nominate someone else because I felt that people should do this if they want to do so, not because someone nominated them to. So if you decide to do your own interview, feel free to send me a link so I can 1) go read it, and 2) link it up to my account. The person that nominated me is a good friend, James Hoke, who recently published his first fantasy book: Twins 1: The Ark Brothers which is available for purchase at in both hardcover and kindle editions.

So on to my interview…

1. What are you working on?

I am working on a teen paranormal novel series with vampires, werewolves, zombies and few other creatures that go bump in the night. I recently completed a novel about a girl who has to survive a zombie apocalypse.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

For the zombie apocalypse book, it deviates because it focuses on teens instead of adults. Its the only teen zombie apocalypse novel that I know of. As far as the novel series, its not much different from what has been done before, just a new twist on old story-lines.

3. Why do you write what you do?

I have always been fascinated with things that go bump in the night and have been writing “horror” stories since I was 9 years old. My favorite story when I was really young was “Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. While most girls my age played Cinderella, I played the Headless Horseman. It has always been in my blood, I guess.

4. How does your writing process work?

Well, like any story, it begins with an idea. The idea could be a plot-line, a character, a scene, or even a setting. Then I sit on it and let it flow through my mind while I tweak, arrange, rearrange, mold, shape, reject, and sift through concepts that come with the original idea. After a while, the story itself starts to form in my head and that is when I begin to write. Often, I have no idea where the story is going, but I feel that in this way, the characters have a better chance of coming alive in my mind. Plus, I have found that if I know the ending, I feel like I am forcing the characters to do things that they wouldn’t normally do. Anyway, I continue writing until the end, then do my revisions. That is pretty much it. And each story is different. For one story, I might start at the beginning, but for another, I might start with a scene that comes closer to the middle.

Thank you for reading. Again, if you decide to interview yourself and would like me to read and link up to your interview, feel free to contact me. 🙂


This plant, sometimes called the common thistle, is considered to be an invasive weed nearly everywhere it grows. That is saying a lot, because it grows almost everywhere in North America except for in a few places in the deep southeast. It is also widespread in Europe.

This is a biennial plant that can grow up to six feet tall in its second year, producing the blossoms on branched stems. The leaves are deeply lobed, with spines at the end of each lobe as well as on the midvein, on the stem and around the flower. The flowers are pink to dark pink or nearly purple in color and they are actually quite attractive. The leaves at the base of the plant form a rosette that can be over a couple feet across.

The herb grows in sunny areas that have from damp to dry dirt. It is sometimes seen in waste areas, roadsides, empty lots, trails, pastures and even occasionally in gardens. The plant has a thick, tapering tap root but propagates by seeds.

Looking at one, a person might easily dismiss it as something not worth eating, even for a survivalist. This would be a mistake, however. It is actually a healthy and good tasting wild plant, with a flavor that is similar to celery, though bland.

A sharp knife can be used to remove the spines from the leaves and the leaves can then be eaten raw, steamed, boiled or added to other foods such as soups and stews. The leaves are best when they are harvested during cooler times of the year, like spring and autumn.

The thick tap root can also be peeled, sliced and either boiled or fried, stir-fry style.

A personal favorite is to collect the flowerheads before they’ve totally opened and to peel off the thorny outer skin. These are then boiled. Once done, the flavor is similar to artichokes (which are also members of the thistle family). I like slicing the cooked flowerheads and dipping them in mayonnaise. The downside is that they aren’t usually very large, so it takes a lot of them to make a meal.

This plant is high in vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, iron and fiber, which makes it a nutritional powerhouse. It also contains Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, so it has value because of the anti-oxidants.

Medicinally, Asians have used bull thistles for a long time for the treatment of internal bleeding and hemorrhages. American Indians also used the plant to treat bleeding gums, inflammation and stomach ulcers. The plant has properties that help with almost any kind of internal bleeding.

For the survivalist, this is a plant to remember. It is common, healthy and can help sustain a person in the case of an apocalypse or even after a natural disaster. Don’t let the thorny appearance fool you. Just remove the thorns.

ImageThis plant gets its common name from the flat, heart-shaped seed pods that were thought to resemble the change purse used by shepherds. Shepherd’s purse is quite common where the ground has been disturbed, including fields, along roads or trails, in gardens and in waste places. It isn’t hard to identify, with lobed or toothed leaves, similar to dandelions, that seldom get more than a couple inches long. The flowers are white and have four petals, with the flower stalk arising from the middle of the plant. The stalk continues to grow with blooms at the top and seed pods lower on the stalk. The pods are actually fruits and they contain the seeds, which are also edible.

The entire plant is edible, though it is most often the young leaves that are harvested, prior to the time the plant blooms. The reason for this is that shepherd’s purse is a member of the mustard family, and like most members of the group, the peppery flavor becomes much more pronounced when the wild herb starts blooming. (This is also common of the other members of the mustard family.)

For a survivalist, this is a plant of good value. Not only is it common and easy to find in most of North America and Europe, it is also quite high in vitamin C, calcium, sulfur and iron. Additionally, it contains acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. The plant is also balanced in regard to the amount of carbohydrates and proteins it contains. The flavor is peppery but good, reminiscent of watercress, which is also a member of the family.

The plant is eaten either as a cooked potherb, as a raw addition to green salads and to flavor other foods, especially soups and stews. It goes great with most wild game, especially venison, bear, grouse and quail. It is also good with fish.

This herb has medicinal properties, though it isn’t commonly used in the United States for that purpose. It is good for use to stop internal and external bleeding, it is reputed to lower blood pressure, it is used to treat diarrhea and it has been effectively used by women who are on menstruating, to help control flow. It can also be used as a diuretic for people who are retaining water. Some American Indian tribes also used it as a mild analgesic. For medicinal purposes, shepherd’s purse can be dried, but it doesn’t retain its medicinal properties long, so it is best to use it fresh.

This is yet another survival plant that is great to eat for hikers and campers. The peppery taste can even be used to great effect on bland foods, to make them more palatable.

Previous survival plants in the series:

The picture is by H. Zell, creative commons share alike 1.2 attribution

I was reminded that I haven’t yet posted an introduction here. My apologies for the oversight. It wasn’t intentional.

To begin with, I’m Cat’s dad. I’m also a writer, currently focusing on informational articles that cover a wide range of interests. I also do quite a bit of editing of articles written by other writers (which definitely doesn’t mean that my own won’t have errors in them).

Most of my professional training is for either computer software technology or restaurant management and operations. The two aren’t very similar, but it just worked out that way.

When I’m not writing and editing, I’m likely to be out in the garden, out fishing or out camping. All of these are interests and I write about all of them on occasion. Other articles tend to be about wild animals and care, owing to the fact that I’ve been rehabilitating wild animals for nearly a half century. It wouldn’t be understating it to say that I have a keen interest in wild animals. This is something Cat has inherited and she is quite knowledgeable in regard to animal care, though she might deny it.

The first 12 years of my life were spent at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The love of animals probably came from that experience. For those who aren’t familiar with the park, it is a mountain national park with beautiful vistas, lots of plants and a huge number of wild animals. It also gets plenty of snow. There is usually snow on the ground about nine months out of the year and in the middle of winter, it is quite common for there to be snow banks in excess of 10 feet (over three meters).

I learned survival from an early age and that included snow survival, survival in the woods and plant lore. I took survival courses and also ended up teaching survival. Being an herbalist and in keeping with also being a survivalist, it is wonderful to learn about new plants that can be eaten or used for medicinal purposes. In fact, when we do get to go out camping, I like to supplement meals with wild fare, including mushrooms. (Yummy!)

I agreed to help keep a watch on Cat’s pages because she is going to college and working, too. My writing brings in a bit, but her income is the most that comes into the household, so I’m hoping that this relieves a bit of the pressure that is on her right now.

Incidentally, very little of my writing is first person, though this introduction is almost entirely FPS.

It is nice to meet everyone, and please don’t be afraid to say hello, ask questions or to make suggestions.

Imagine yourself where the snow is many feet deep, snow is falling, the wind is blowing and the temperature is dropping. This situation would be dire, but certainly one you could survive, especially if you had a little preplanning.

The first step would be to build a shelter. In the stated situation, Mother Nature has already supplied you with building supplies: The snow. Snow is a surprisingly good insulator.

Dig a hole into the snow, preferably on a slope. Basically, you are making a tunnel slightly larger in diameter than your body. If it is on a slope, you are burrowing slightly upward so that the snow and wind are less of a factor. When you’ve dug in between six and 10 feet, excavate a ‘room’ that is a little longer than you are when you recline and about triple your width.

Poke a hole from the side edge of the room to the surface at an angle. This is for ventilation and it should be just an inch or two in diameter. Without ventilation, the shelter can hold in the carbon dioxide that you exhale, until it reaches toxic levels.

The next step is to get tree boughs and pull them into the shelter, on the bottom, to keep you off of the snow. Otherwise, your body heat will start melting the snow, you’ll gradually get wet and when the water refreezes, you’ll be in trouble. Fir boughs are especially good for a bedding cushion. Even if it isn’t especially comfortable, at least it keeps you off the snow.

Okay, so what’s the bit about the candle, mentioned in the title? The candle serves a triple purpose. First, it supplies light. You wouldn’t believe how dark it gets when you are 10 feet inside a snow bank.

Second, it provides a huge amount of warmth. There is little worry that the snow will all melt, because the heat simply melts the facing edges. The snow that is behind it causes the thin layer of melted snow to freeze into a layer of ice. In turn, this reflects the heat back into your little room, making it even warmer. The ice also lends strength to the structure. You might note that neither the light nor the soot is usually visible from outside the snow cave.

The third purpose of the candle is that candle wax is both waterproof and flammable. Sooner or later, you are probably going to want to build a fire and the candle wax can be quite helpful is helping you get it started. It can generate enough heat that even damp twigs can dry out and burn. A tiny fire can be built inside of the snow cave, provided that the room is large enough, however even if a warming fire is built outside the cave at a later time, any candle drippings can be used to start it and they should be saved.

Though the building of snow caves is often part of winter survival training, this is something I’ve been doing since I was seven years old and living at Crater Lake National Park, where I grew up. The difference is that we did it for fun rather than survival. Our tunnels were also often much more elaborate than what I’ve just described, so there is room for the imagination.

Have you ever built or been inside a snow tunnel?

There are a number of things that most survivalists keep in their emergency kits. A lot of people who haven’t received any survival training are kind of surprised at one of the very handy tool’s though: A plumber’s candle.

As a nation, the United States just came through one of the most bitterly cold winters on record for at least the last 50 years. This would have been a perfect time for people to have kept a few plumber’s candles handy, and there really isn’t a bad time to have a few in the ekit (emergency kit).

These are the candles that are usually less than a half foot tall and a bit less than an inch in diameter, sometimes sold as ‘8-hour candles’. I’ve never seen one actually burn that long, but the point is that they produce a surprising amount of heat and light. It is important to note that we weren’t talking about the little decorative candles or those that will burn up fast. Here are just a couple scenarios where they could be life savers:

You and your family are home, temperatures are sub-zero outside and the power goes out. You get the family into the smallest room in the house, probably the bathroom, with blankets and such, knowing that it is easier to heat a small space than a big one. You open the window just a little, also knowing that venting is important to get rid of excess carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, then you light the candle. The candle provides heat and light, and can actually keep the room above freezing, despite the outside temperatures. (Body heat would also help.) This could keep everyone from freezing to death before help arrived.

Another scenario: You are driving along the highway with the family, on icy roads and with snow falling. The snowfall turns into a blizzard and unavoidably, you find yourself stuck in a snow bank with snow rapidly covering the car. Help will probably arrive, but it might take hours before it does. You know that running the car so you can use the heater is a bad idea. You’ll soon run out of gas, and in the process, the carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfate from the engine would reach toxic levels in less than a half hour.

So you roll down the window just a little, again for ventilation, turn off the engine, and pull out the handy candle. Burning the candle can keep the compartment warm. It can also be used to heat food, if there is any (a good emergency kit will have at least some food in it). It can also be used to dry out clothing, such as socks. It can even be used to melt some snow in order to have water to drink.

In both cases, you’ve turned a potentially deadly situation into merely an inconvenient and frustrating one. Your chances of survival increase many times.

All of this is possible because of including a candle in the emergency gear. A lot of people don’t think about including one. There are many other great ways that candles can keep you safe, too, and I’ll be writing about some of them.

The question is, do you have one or two 8-hour candles in your emergency gear for the home, office and car?