What’s Your Favorite Season?

By Betty Thomason Owens

SpringBulbsWelcome to March! I love March, possibly because it’s my birth month, but also because—in my neck of the woods—Spring is on the way. Though often blustery, March’s sun-filled days mean I can venture out into my flower beds and see what’s popping up through the soil. So you can probably guess my favorite season.

Here at Writing Prompts, throughout March, we’re going to be talking about our favorite season. We’ll discuss why we love that particular time of year, and maybe even get into the science of seasons. Why are there seasons? And of course, some of us will explore them from the writer’s point of view. When you’re reading a book, what season is it? Can you tell from the narrative? If so, the author has done his job well. So how do you show the reader what season it is, without telling? Yes, “show not tell” works with seasons, as well. I’ll give you a little workshop below, so be sure you read all the way to the end. Remember, if you participate in our writing prompts provided on Monday and Friday posts, your name will be entered in a giveaway during our “blog-a-versary” celebration in June. You could win a $100 gift card!

I apologize for the number of times I repeated the word, “seasons,” in the former paragraph. I did replace it a couple of times. But on to the reason I love Spring…not just crocus-673477_1280because of the flowers, though I love flowers. Anyone who reads my personal blog at Betty Thomason Owens knows I love flowers. Ah, the warming soil, the soft, spring rains, the newly green grass. (Please note that as I am writing this, the unusually warm winter has left us with green grass, though it is January). And I love the Easter celebration. All things new! The pea-green leaves unfurling on the maple trees, the bright pink of dogwood blooms, azalea bushes, and creeping phlox. Can you sense the love here? But also, “see” the season—this is one way to show it in your writing.

Recently, I was watching a show on television and the lead character mentioned it was October. But when she went outside, there was definitely a white dogwood blooming, and it was not a Japanese dogwood that blooms all summer. I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, but they actually featured the tree in the opening scene. So right away, I was expecting Spring. See how important it is to your reader?

Beyond the scenery, though, how would you show spring in your writing? What other clues lie in nature? And, don’t forget—it all depends on the “where.” Keep your setting in mind when you drop hints about the season. If you’re on the West Coast,the seasons aren’t so dramatic as they are on the East Coast, or even in the middle. If you’re in the far north, spring drags its feet. You can’t bring in green grass and flowers until later in the year. So, setting and season must agree.

lamb 3Back to my former question, let’s look at how you show spring other than through scenery and flora. Consider fauna. New lambs, calves, and foals. Or birdsong—which birds signal Spring in your area of the country? Here’s an interesting post from Bird Watcher’s Digest.

Robins arrive, juncos leave, duck and geese are in flight. Peepers peep (you know those little amphibians that live in the trees). That’s another odd thing I heard in a movie once. There were definitely frogs croaking, but there was snow on the ground. I was so confused!

Children are outside playing—okay, maybe only in a historical setting—but I still hear children’s voices in my neighborhood. And my favorite harbinger of Spring from my childhood, the smell of freshly-turned soil.

Annabelle's Ruth Final-SmallArmed with these hints, you should be able to complete the writing prompt below. I’m issuing a challenge to you and offering an additional incentive to write your best prose. If you haven’t read my novel, Annabelle’s Ruth, I’ll send one copy to a reader who finishes this prompt (submit via comments). If I have multiple entries, I’ll let the other crewmembers vote on the best one. So not only will you win my book, you’ll also win a little competition for the best-written prompt. How great is that? And all prompt writers will be entered for the blog-a-versary prize in July.

Okay, that’s my challenge, now here’s the prompt:

Dahlia stepped out onto the back deck of her country house. What was that noise?

Remember: have a setting in mind—set the season through sensory elements. You can use some of my suggestions above. Continue my prompt to tell or start a story of your own. Keep it short (up to 100 words), but give us a sense of setting and season. Post your finished prompt in the comments.

Grand Prize Winners of Our Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway

OnceUponaChristmas
Wow. 2016 is here. And nothing is more fun than announcing winners to kick off this new year.

Let’s start with Lori Stanley Roeleveld’s book Red Pen Redemption. The winner is…Phee Paradise. Congrats, Phee!

Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway

We offered three sets of prizes for our grand prize winners.

Readers giveaway – $25 Barnes and Noble card, Books: Tessa and Clara BessWarm Mulled Kisses box set, Crooked Lines, Plum Pudding Bride

Writer’s giveaway – $10 Starbucks card, Books: The First Five Pages, The Time Keeper,  Heart Seekers box set, Tsunami 2004

Shopper’s giveaway – $10 Walmart gift card, bracelet, necklace and earrings, Books: Glimpses of the Savior devotions, First and Goal (football devotional)

Now the moment you are all waiting for:drum roll

We are happy to announce three big winners:

(1)Reader’s giveaway-Caryl Kane.

(2)Writer’s giveaway-Sparks of Ember.

(3)Shopper’s giveaway-Deborah Dunson.

Congratulations to all our winners! We’ll be getting in touch with you soon so we can send those gifts to you!

We’ll also be having another big giveaway to celebrate our blog’s 4-year anniversary. Our Blogaversary!

Make sure to leave comments on our Monday and Friday posts in 2016 to be eligible for more great prizes throughout the year…and don’t forget our weekly 3 Questions Wednesday interviews.

We’d also like to give a big shout out for our top four commenters of 2015:

Hip Hip Hooray to Deanna, Sparks, Amy, and Caryl!

fireworks 2

Christmas Roundup – The Writing Prompts Crew

December seems like the best time to take a few moments and introduce you to the Writing Prompts Crew. We’ve added and subtracted over the years, but always end up with a really good group of writers. You can find more information about each of our writers, along with information and buy links for their published books by clicking “The Crew” tab above, or the link provided at the end of each bio. And please read to the end of this post for important information and details about the Once Upon a Christmas Giveaway!

Jennifer HallmarkJennifer Hallmark is co-founder of the Writing Prompts blog. She’s a writer by nature, an artist at heart, and daughter of God by His grace. She’s published over 200 articles and interviews on the internet. Through the Writing Prompts blog and her personal website, Alabama-Inspired Fiction, Jennifer focuses on her books, love of the South, and helping other writers. For fun, she loves to read detective fiction from the Golden Age, watch movies like LOTR, and play with her two precious granddaughters. Jennifer and her husband, Danny, have spent their married life in Alabama and have a basset hound, Max. Read more about Jennifer here.

betty owensBetty Thomason Owens is a multi-published author who writes romantic comedy, historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. She has contributed hundreds of articles and interviews to various blogs around the internet and is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), where she leads a critique group. She’s also a mentor, assisting other writers and a co-founder of a blog dedicated to inspiring writers–this one! Read more here.

TammyTammy J. Trail is a wife, mother and grandmother. Residing in Kansas where life is a never ending joy ride as “taxi driver” for two teenage boys. She learns something new every day, and once in awhile it’s useful information. A lover of historical fiction in any time period, her favorite is the American Revolutionary period.

Betty Boyd 1A Pennsylvania native, Betty Boyd moved to the Tennessee Valley in 1994. She retired in early 2012 after 30 years of Government service. She has a consulting firm, Boyd Consulting Services, which offers writing services. She active in her church, and community. She is currently working on her first non-fiction book. Read more here.

anne evansAnne Garboczi Evans has been biting off more than she can chew ever since she entered the world with a splash at 10 lbs 1 oz. Marrying a military man and moving six times in four years was just a continuation of that process. Anne’s favorite things to do are take long walks with her husband and little boy, “Joe-Joe,” and get addicted to Netflix TV shows with her husband. Their latest guilty pleasure is Fox’s House.  Read more about Anne here.

Holly MichaelHolly Michael has enjoyed a writing career as a journalist, features writer, and a regular ghostwriter for a Guideposts magazine before authoring novels and nonfiction books. Married to Anglican Bishop, Leo Michael, Holly has three grown children; daughter Betsy and football-playing sons—Jake (NFL) and Nick (University of Louisiana-Lafayette). Kansas City, Missouri is home and she blogs at www.writingstraight.com. Read more here.

Karen JurgensKaren Jurgens, a Cincinnati native, has been a Texan transplant for thirty years and counting. As a lifelong writer, she has written stories since her elementary school days. As an adult, she wrote Christian fiction for her church’s newspaper as well as non-fiction that was published in a national magazine. Since retiring from teaching in 2014, she has begun a new career as an author, blogger, and speaker within the context of Christian ministry. Read more here.

RobinMasonHeadShotRobin E. Mason writes Christian-worldview–in other words, there’s no salvation message, but there are plenty of characters who know the Lord and share His perspective with those who are struggling.

Tessa and Clara Bess are both available on Amazon, both for Kindle and in print.

The third book in the series, Cissy, will be available in 2016.   Ms. Mason also has several poems included in an anthology, Where Dreams and Visions Live (Anthologies of the Heart Book 1) by Mary Blowers, as well as a short story, Sarafina’s Light, also in an anthology, Blood Moon, compiled by Mary Blowers. She will also be working on a personal anthology of poetry to be released in 2016 as well. Read more about Robin here.

HarrietMichaelNew to the Writing Prompts crew, Harriet E. Michael (no known relation to Holly Michael) was born in Nigeria, West Africa, as the daughter of missionaries. Harriet is a writer, gardener, substitute teacher, wife of over 36 years, mother of four, grandmother of one and soon-to-be grandmother of two. She holds a BS in nursing from West Virginia University but has discovered her passion for writing. Since her first published article in 2010, she now has over a hundred and fifty published articles and devotions. Read more here.

From all of us, to all of you, may your Christmas be blessed!

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV


OnceUponaChristmasOnce Upon a Christmas Giveaway Details!

Three chances to win!

Here are the categories and the prizes:

Readers giveaway – $25 Barnes and Noble card, Books: Tessa and Clara Bess, Warm Mulled Kisses box set, Crooked Lines, Plum Pudding BridePrize-1

Writer’s giveaway – $10 Starbucks card, Books: The First Five Pages, Heart Seekers box set, Tsunami 2004Prize-2

Shopper’s giveaway – $10 Walmart gift card, bracelet, Books: Glimpses of the Savior devotions, First and Goal (football devotional)Prize-3

Southern Comfort – Biscuits

by Betty Owens

french-fries-367515_1280When I think of comfort food, French fries come to mind. Not just any French fries. Spicy ones. And I dip them in a mixture of ketchup and Cholula. Now, that’s comforting.

When I’m not feeling well, I usually crave a bowl of fresh veggie soup with a tomato base. Because Grandma always made that when we were sick. And a hard-boiled egg and buttered toast at breakfast. It really did seem to make me feel better. Or maybe it was Grandma’s kisses and all that attention.

But those are not really very good recipes to share, so I need to dig deeper. These days, my cooking and baking has changed. We try to eat “healthier” – cut down on refined sugars and use less salt (except in spicy fries). I learned that I could substitute coconut oil for shortening. It works beautifully, even when making something a little more complicated like biscuits.

So all of my recipes are adaptations. I make substitutions and hope they work. If it doesn’t work, I try again. I’ve had mostly success with coconut oil.

This biscuit recipe results in a product that is a little better for you (until they find bad things in coconut oil). But, if it was too good for you, would it be comfort food? They are so yummy and with just the right amount of butter and jam, absolutely comforting. And your house will smell wonderful.

2212907384_a3114ecff5_zFlaky Biscuits
½ stick cold butter (1/4 cup)
¼ cup coconut oil*
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk**

*I mash coconut oil with a fork before mixing it in flour, because sometimes it’s lumpy.
**I use dry milk, so ¼ cup of dry milk to dry ingredients, then ¾ cup of water instead of milk.

Preheat oven to 450° Yield is 12 biscuits. Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 14 minutes

graterFirst, stir or sift together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in butter and coconut oil. To make this really, really easy, I grate the cold butter into the flour and toss it a few times. Yes, you read that right. I use an actual grater with the larger holes. Then I add the coconut oil and use my fingers to blend the ingredients. Add the milk (or water if you used dry milk) and stir with a fork just until all the dry ingredients are absorbed by the milk. Don’t over stir, or they’ll be tough.

Sprinkle flour evenly on a clean surface. Place the dough on the floured surface. Knead it 5 or 6 times. By kneading, I mean fold half the dough over (like a tortilla) mash it down a little and fold it over again. Do this 5 or 6 times. This forms the layers in the biscuits. You’ll be very happy about those.

You may need to lift the dough off the surface and add a little more flour so it doesn’t stick, but don’t overdo it.

Using your fingers, press the dough evenly flat until it’s about ½” thick. Now you get to use the biscuit cutter. If you don’t have one, you can use a glass. Dip your biscuit cutter or glass in dry flour between cuts to keep it from sticking.

Move the biscuits over to the baking sheet (you may need a spatula to move them). Gather the remaining dough into a round ball, knead it a couple of times and press it into another ½” round. Cut and place on the baking sheet.

When all the biscuits are evenly spaced on the baking sheet, place the baking sheet in the fridge for ten minutes. This is important.

While you’re waiting, you can clean up your mess. After the ten minutes is up, move the baking sheet of biscuits to the preheated oven and bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until golden brown.

Enjoy. And for a real Southern experience, serve with a glass of sweet tea.

NOTE: I’m not sure why, but placing the biscuits in the fridge for ten minutes makes them rise really high. Love that. If you master these, your family will love you and that’s comforting, too.

Instead of a writing prompt — I’ve provided a chuckle prompt:

What I Wanted to be When I Grew Up

by Betty Thomason Owens

10171180_10203041015340695_307067443322518168_nA long, long time ago…about the time this picture was taken, I imagined a life filled with my favorite things (I’m the one on the right, by the way). I loved flowers and animals. I frequently invaded prize-winning flower gardens and brought bouquets home to Mom. She was not happy when an angry gardener showed up at her door. I was a sweet, girly version of Dennis the Menace, apparently.

So I dreamed of growing my own beautiful beds of flowers. I’d imagine myself sitting in my porch swing surrounded by cats and dogs who could understand every word I said. Birds sang in the trees. A peacock prowled the yard. All in my fanciful world, of course.

At the time, I lived in a magical place called San Diego. Where flowers bloomed all year round. Tangerines ripened on a tree outside our back door. We climbed date palms and ate cherries from a hedge. Not sure about that last one. I remember eating cherries, but not sure why it was a hedge.

Just blocks away, the beautiful mission of Balboa rang its bells during the day. Not far away, lions roared and elephants trumpeted from their environs at the San Diego Zoo.

Sounds lovely, I know. It was my reality at the time. So I imagined myself in whatever walk of life included beautiful flowers and taking care of cute and cuddly things. My destiny.

51hUtA3M-cLFast-forward a few years and I’m eleven years old and living in a small town in West Tennessee. A far cry (in so many ways) from San Diego. I visited the school library and found a red-and-white book, one of a series of books about Cherry Ames. Cherry was a nurse. The series followed her from candystriper to head nurse and beyond. I vaguely remember romance and intrigue. I determined to follow in her footsteps and earn the white cap.

I made it as far as nurses’ aide in a retirement home during my high school years. I was accepted to a prestigious nursing school, but never went. Life intervened. Dad lost his job a few weeks before I was set to enter. I couldn’t pay for the school, and he wouldn’t let me get a loan. I didn’t have the confidence to do it on my own.

Dreams derailed, I went to work in an office. I married, raised three sons, developed a sense of humor while raising three sons. Hey, you do what you have to do to survive.

Years later, I’ve retired from full-time work as an office manager. I didn’t have much choice, the company I worked for closed. I still love flowers. I love animals. I long to visit San Diego again. Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined way back then. It might actually be better than my dreams.

crocus-673477_1280Fast-forward to 2015. I watch the seasons pass outside my window, waiting for the first signs of spring so I can get out in the yard and dig in my flower bed. I write books and stories and blog posts. I talk to friends all over the world on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome my grandchildren and enjoy spending time with them. Dreaming with them, about what they’ll be when they grow up.

 

Here’s your Writing Prompt: 

Lois Maxwell smiled as she watched her six-year-old roll out cookie dough. “You’re doing a great job, Lily. Maybe you’ll grow up to be a baker, or a chef.”

Lily laughed as she popped a bite of cookie dough into her mouth. “Tell me the story again, Mommy. What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Complete the prompt for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

A Little History of Cartooning

by Betty Thomason Owens

Cartoons have been around for centuries. Even the cave dwellers drew cartoons on the walls of their caves.
Were they:

1. Documenting history?
2. Lampooning local government?
3. Entertaining the kids?
4. Drawn by kids?

Fast-forward a few years:
Woodcuts and mezzotints are used in the early printing process. Those were a bit like rubber stamps. Artists carved their cartoon or illustration backward, so when the print was made, it showed up correctly.

Long before you could attach a file or snap a shot of something and post it to Facebook or include it on your latest blogpost, illustrators and artists created cartoons. These were often political in nature. Imagine that.

Political and editorial cartoons usually express one man’s opinion–also called lampooning and often involves caricature. Have you ever had someone draw you in caricature? They will usually overemphasize and under-emphasize some of your features to make it slightly comical, but still recognizable.

512px-Lincoln_and_Johnsond

An editorial cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865, entitled “The Rail Splitter at Work Repairing the Union”

This is a well-known example of early political/editorial cartoons. Notice the detail (click on it to enlarge). As you can see, it’s hand-drawn with a pencil. Most of today’s cartoons are a lot more professional, but personally, I still love the look of pencil drawings.

Note: I’m providing links below for modern examples, since most are copyrighted and require fees for use.

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_DieBenjamin Franklin was one of the earliest Indie writers. Yes, he self-published, and was best known for Poor Richard’s Almanac. He was a very busy man. When he wasn’t electrocuting keys, he wrote, taught, mentored, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, wrote books, made a fortune, printed…well, you get the picture. At a critical point in American history, he created this cartoon to encourage the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Another famous cartoonist was Theodore (Ted) Geisel. You may know him better as Dr. Seuss. He drew political propaganda cartoons during World War II. He took a lot of flack for it, also, but his signature style shone through those cartoons. There is no doubt who drew them. If you’ve read many of his children’s books, you’ll know he was very concerned with politics (Butter Battle Book, for one).

As an aside, cartoonists were also utilized by the war departments of some countries including Great Britain, to work on accurate maps for bomb crews.

My Grandpa Christy was an armchair politician. He drew cartoons for local “rags” — tiny hometown newspapers. He kept a scrapbook of those. I tried to get my hands on it in time for this post, but it didn’t happen.

His favorite subjects were (then) Presidents Nixon and Johnson. Why? He loved to draw big noses. He had one. He also had big ears and the biggest smile I’d ever seen. An omnipresent smile. Mom has many pictures of Grandpa, and that smile was in all of them. Except in the picture I have of him when he was about five or so, but they were warned not to smile for photos in those days.

20150313_134209Grandpa had a great sense of humor, which is one very important requirement in a political satirist/cartoonist. Open your newspaper and turn to the editorial pages. You will probably find at least one editorial cartoon. They are almost always political in nature. They can seem snarky, even cruel. Apparently, the ruder, the better.

Political/editorial cartoons sometimes make you laugh, but more often make you think. And that’s their reason for being.

Here are the promised links to some present-day quality political and editorial cartoons:

http://www.usnews.com/cartoons

http://www.washingtontimes.com/cartoons/

http://www.newyorker.com/cartoons/daily-cartoon


Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Senator Douglass opened the morning paper and was shocked to see…