Oh, That’s Subtle: The Little Things Holding Your Novel Back – by Janice Hardy…

This is good advice.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

On Fiction University:

Subtlety can mean the difference between a novel that works and one that falls flat. 

The smallest change have a big impact on your writing. One word change, one shift in perspective, and everything’s different. Hopefully such changes result in a better story, but when they don’t, spotting what’s wrong can be frustrating.

Maybe you’re struggling with a story right now, or submitting one that’s getting good feedback, but just not quite landing anywhere, or having beta readers tell you it’s good, but not great, and it’s lacking something they can’t put their finger on. You know you can fix it if you could just find it.

Take a closer look and see if there’s a subtle reason that’s holding your novel back.

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About books, movies, cooking, and advice
Decorating, shopping, and finding the best price
Life, love and raising kids
Along with do-hickeys, what-cha-ma-call-its, and thing-a-ma-jigs
We’re just two Texas gals
Straight from the sticks
The only thing we won’t gab about
Is religion and politics!

Since, we, the Gabbin’ gals are writers, we have to mention some of the book/reading related holidays coming up this week. We’ve included links and a little bit of gab for you to check out!

April 21, 2020
National Library Day

April 22, 2020
National Bookmobile Day

Susan shares memories of what the bookmobile meant to her as a child.

I’ll never forget my childhood visits to the bookmobile. Dispatched every other week from the central library in downtown San Antonio, Texas, the unassuming airstream trailer sat at the local shopping center for the day. Inside, books filled floor to ceiling shelves. An attendant sat at a small table on one end, reading, of course.

The place beckoned me with as much excitement and anticipation as a picnic or a day at the pool because it represented adventure, escape, and fantasy.

I journeyed far away from that little trailer sitting in the parking lot under the hot Texas sun. My travels took me far north, sledding down an icy hill, building a snowman, or making snow angels. I sailed to tropical islands, ate pineapple, and slept in a hammock. I rode across the plains in a Conestoga Wagon and hunted buffalo with the Indians. Met King Arthur and Excalibur. But my favorite childhood trips were the ones where I visited magical places that only existed in the author’s dreams.

Those days are long gone, but I’ve never stopped experiencing that rush of excitement I get when I pick up a book and start a new journey.

April 23, 2020
World Book Night

April 25, 2020
Eeyore’s Birthday!

This one we just had to gab about!

Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Austin, Texas. Eeyore turns 57!! It’s a fun-filled day for kids, benefitting non-profits, but what we found interesting was in the FAQ section where one of the inquires was: Can I go Topless?


Well, you may be surprised by the answer:
Yes. Texas is one of 36 states that does not forbid toplessness. Austin also doesn’t disallow it. Many attendees choose to paint their breasts in celebration of Eeyore’s birthday. You might be inspired to the do the same. We offer face painting at the event if you find your painting skills are lacking. We also sell pasties for those of us that are more modest.

Check out last year’s photos here: https://imageevent.com/cbusch/eeyoresbirthday2019

Eeyore is a character in the Winnie-the-Pooh book series, written by A. A. Milne. He is characterized as a pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, old gray donkey who suffers from anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure.

So, Susan, would you go topless at Eeyore’s birthday? Or choose the more modest route of pasties?

Susan: I don’t know about you, but I have to wonder about someone sending a query whether or not they could celebrate Eeyore’s birthday topless. I could just hear Eeyore saying, “Ohhhh-kayyy.” It has to be someone young and/or perky. Or maybe they commented on the wrong thread. It’s not something I’d consider under any circumstances. By the end of April in Texas, I’d get a serious sunburn.

Ann: I wouldn’t worry so much about sunburn. I’d worry that after the body painter finished, I’d have two sad basset hounds draped to my waist!!

READERS, would you consider going topless at Eeyore’s party? Give us your opinions. We’d love to hear them, and one lucky commenter will win two ebooks of your choice—one from Susan, and one from Ann or her alter ego, Emma Ames.

Find out more about Ann Everett/Emma Ames: https://www.anneverett.com

Spring In East Texas

I had a conversation with my granddaughter recently. She’s off at college and has developed an interest in growing things. She was all excited about new leaves on one of her plants. We talked about things blooming in the spring and about how seeing them brings a lift to our spirits. Another one of God’s gifts we get to enjoy. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

The Crabapple tree in my front yard gets prettier every year. I’m thinking it’s over ten years old. My daughter planted it. They are believed to have originated in the mountains of Kazakhstan. Though it’s not clear how they arrived here, at least three crabapple species are native to North America: Malus coronaria, M. fusca, and M. ioensis.

My daughter also planted the Spirea Bush. It is a genus of about 80 to 100 species of shrubs in the family Rosacae.  They are native to the temperate northern hemisphere with the greatest diversity in eastern Asia. I have planted three more around the side and the back of the house. The soil here is perfect for growing things.

Spring In East Texas

March has been cool and windy with lots of rain, but things are finally beginning to bloom. Another bonus to being quarantined in the country. On a sunny day I can go outside for a change of scenery. Or I can watch the birds eating an early lunch at the bird feeder. They are probably wondering why I haven’t filled it. They eat it up so fast I have to ration it. Kind of like toilet paper these days!

Dinner and a Movie Monday – Driving Miss Daisy

Driving Miss Daisy won the Oscar for best picture in 1989. It was adapted from the play of the same name. It stars Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, who reprised his role in the play, and Dan Aykroyd.  

Jessica Tandy lost a bet with her agent when she said she wouldn’t win for best actress. She did an excellent job of bringing Miss Daisy to life. She plays a retired school teacher, an outspoken, independent woman living in Georgia. We get to know her by focusing on her home life, synagogue, friends, family, fears, and concerns over a twenty five year period.

Morgan Freeman brought Hoke to life with his dignity, patience and sense of humor. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. It’s a story of an unlikely relationship between a wealthy Jewish widow and her illiterate black chauffeur who become the best of friends.

In the move, when Miss Daisy backs her car over the neighbor’s hedge, she doesn’t wring her hands and cry over spilt milk. She makes up a batch of pickles! That’s a true southern woman for you!

This recipe was given to me by my sister. It came from her mother-in-law, Maxine Raley.

Lime Pickles

1/2 bushel cucumbers (20-24 lbs)

12 lb sugar

2 3/4 gallons white vinegar

1 1/2 small bottle pickling spice


Wash and slice cucumbers. Put in a large plastic container with water and lime (1 cup lime to 2 gallons water) Soak overnight with ice cubes on top to keep cool. Drain and rinse 3 times. Put in pan. Sprinkle with sugar, salt, spices and vinegar. Soak overnight. Boil rapidly until color changes. Pour into clean quart jars (takes about 20) Seal with lids and let stand about 20 days.

Coming Again Soon

After a late-night visit to Battington’s marketplace, Princess Mena vanishes without a trace. Merchants are frantic because King Leander has called for a curfew and postponed the Spring Festival until further notice. Certain his former constable is the man for the job; the mayor hires Xander to investigate, hoping he can solve the mystery in a hurry so things can go back to normal.

     But Xander’s not so sure that’s possible, because there’s romance involved, and he knows when that happens folks who are normally very sensible seem to lose all reason. In addition to sorting out truths, half-truths, and outright lies, he must deal with gypsies, love potions, and an illegal moonshine operation before he can get to the bottom of things.

Revised version on Amazon coming soon!! In the frenzy of last-minute purchases, before Battington Marketplace closed for the night, no one seemed to notice someone creeping silently along the edges of darkness, dodging pools of light shining down from the streetlamps. As the last of the shoppers gathered their parcels and left, merchants were free to close up shop.

Only then did the cloaked and hooded figure emerge from the shadows and head straight for Mercury’s apothecary shop in the center of the market. The figure stopped, darting a glance in both directions before rapping on the weathered door.

Mercury spoke, his voice thin and reedy. “I’m closed for the night. Come back in the morning.”

After a brief pause, the knocking resumed. Louder and more persistent.

Amid the rattle of the lock, squeaking hinges, and mumbling protests, the wisp of a man opened the door far enough to peer outside. He pushed spectacles up on his nose and squinted, his eyes widening with recognition when he glimpsed the velvet cloak bordered in gold and fastened with a broach bearing the royal emblem. 

Princess Mena.

“Oh. It’s you.” He poked his head out the door and swallowed, glancing nervously around the marketplace.

“Well? Are you going to stand there gaping or move out of my way?” With a snap of her cape, she brushed past and stepped inside. 

Dark shadows made the workshop gloomy despite the flames dancing on top of dozens of beeswax candles clustered in the middle of the worktable.

“If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll light a lamp…”

“Don’t bother. Is it ready?” 

Mercury wrung his hands. “My humble apologies for the delay, my lady. I didn’t get the ingredients needed until late this afternoon.” He wrung his hands. “Truth be told, after your father found out about your visit, I was unsure whether I’d ever see you again.”

“Enough of your prattle.” Her voice crackled with impatience. “Give me the potion. And be quick about it!”

Mercury pressed his lips together in a thin line as if to keep further explanations from escaping and pointed at the glass beaker filled with pale amber liquid, sitting on his worktable. “I finished mixing it only moments ago.”

The princess thrust a hand full of gold coins at the apothecary, but Mercury hesitated. 

“Are you certain you want to go through with this?”

She forced words through gritted teeth. “Of course, I am. Why do you ask?”

“This spell is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill love potion. Perhaps you ought to reconsider.”

“We’ve been through this once already. Nothing you say will make me change my mind. Now, hand it over.”

Mercury picked up a sheet of parchment sitting next to a beaker of amber liquid and cleared his throat. “You must follow the directions exactly as written. Make sure you understand them.”

The princess inhaled sharply, snatched the paper from his hand, and held it close to the candles, muttering under her breath while she read. “Midnight… candle… strand of hair… recite the verse and drink only a drop. Got it.”

“Make sure you follow the directions to the letter.”

“What happens if I don’t?”

Mercury shrugged. “Love potions can be tricky. No telling what might happen if you don’t.”

Without another word, she grabbed the beaker, bolted out the door, and vanished into the shadows.

If you haven’t read Xander’s Tangled Web, you’re missing a delightful visit to the little town of Battington, where everything isn’t quite as picturesque as it seems. Just ask Xander.

Dinner And A Movie Monday – Troop Zero

Troop Zero is a 2019 American comedy-drama, starring Viola Davis, Mckenna Grace, Jim Gaffigan, Mike Epps, Charlie Shotwell and Allison Janney. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on February 1, 2019 and was released in January, 2020 on Amazon.

It takes place in rural Georgia in 1977, where a group of elementary-school misfits led by spunky outcast Christmas Flint join forces form their own troop in the high-and-mighty Birdie Scouts youth group in order to compete in a talent show. The winning Birdies will earn the right to have their voices included on the Voyager Golden Record, which Christmas believes will be heard by her deceased mother – if they can just win the show.

My sister and I watched this last month. It was a delightful move. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying, sometimes at the same time. Viola Davis and Allison Janney are two of my favorite actresses, but I have to say Mckenna Grace, the child who played Christmas, held her own. The scrapes she and her friends find themselves in trying to earn their badges are hilarious. Each one of them is quirky, peculiar and a little strange, but they learn to lean on one another. I live in the south and the references to life there during the seventies took me down memory lane. You’ll love it.

Fried Chicken

You don’t think about the south without thinking about fried chicken. I don’t cook it now, but this is how I did when my kids were growing up.

Boneless, skinless Chicken Breast (My family preferred white meat)






Wash the breast. Split them in half lengthwise. Salt and Pepper them. Coat them with flour. Dip them in a mixture of milk and eggs. Then coat them with flour again. Fry in a cast iron skillet on medium heat until golden brown. Serve with mashed potatoes and brown gravy, fresh green beans or green salad and bread to sop up the gravy.

~Into the Unknown~

This is something I posted a few years ago…

While channel surfing a while back, I happened to catch the end of Close Encounters. Never see that movie that I don’t think of my husband. Especially now that he’s gone. It was one of his all-time favorites. I never really thought about it until today, but now I understand why.

In the movie Richard Dreyfuss plays Roy Neary, an average middle-class guy who loves his family and works hard to provide for them. Only there’s another side to his character. He still believes in magic. In the movie, when Roy experiences a close encounter, he doubts his sanity. But he can’t let it go, because deep down inside he wants it to be true. So he makes up his mind to prove it.

My husband was the same kind of man. He worked hard, took care of his family and lived a quiet life. But like Roy, there was more to him than met the eye. The casual observer never saw his keen sense of adventure. He had a fascination for the mysterious, the unexplained. The idea of travelers from another world was intriguing to him.

He would have loved the chance to do what Roy did. So it isn’t hard to visualize him standing on the runway at the end of the movie, all smiles. Reluctant to leave his life on earth, yet filled with nervous anticipation at the thought of going on an adventure beyond the stars.

I like to think that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. And I’m certain he’s enjoying every minute.

And someday, I’ll join him.

Thank you, Mama

One of my early childhood memories is the torture of nap time. I rarely slept. Instead, I spent my time looking out the windows, whispering to my sister, and willing the time to pass so I could go back outside and play.

It wasn’t all bad, though. My mother used to read to us. I truly believe that’s where I learned to get lost in a good story. With my eyes closed, the blinds drawn, and snuggled under the covers, I visited other countries, other times. Magical places that stirred my imagination.

I’ve never forgotten those stories she chose to share. The beginning of my love of reading and the desire to become a writer.

A Yummy Breakfast

My sister, Kim, is a great cook. She’s always trying new recipes. This is one of hers. Nothing better than coffee and a hot muffin on a cold winter day!

Cranberry Orange Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups Cranberries, Fresh
  • 1 tbsp Orange, Zest
  • 2 Eggs, Large
  • 1 tsp Baking powder
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 cup Granulated sugar
  • 1 cup Powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup Orange juice
  • 6 tbsp Butter, Unsalted
  • 1/2 cup Buttermilk

Mix orange zest with sugar in small bowl. Set aside.Combine BP, flour and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.Mix buttermilk, oil, orange juice, eggs and vanilla. Combine all ingredients. Fold in cranberries. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Mix flour, melted butter and sugar to make crumble. Spoon on top of muffins. Cook 18 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean. Combine orange juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Pour over cooled muffins. Crumble and glaze are optional. Can be stored in airtight container for 3-4 days.