Monday, May 28, 2018

These are the cuties I dedicated Barnabas and Bird to! I don't get to see them as often as I'd like, but had a wonderful Illinois visit with them last week. So, to Mia, Ella, Kaden, Timmy, and Julie - much love always!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Chapter 1

The ringmaster, in a tattered black tux with red trim, marched to the center ring. Snap, snap, snap, the whip cracked. He bowed to the left, he bowed to the right. He faced the center and shouted into a megaphone, “Welcome, welcome to the Draper Family Circus!”

The people in the red and white striped tent erupted in cheers. Crammed tightly on the bleachers, the audience demanded a night to remember. They munched on peanuts, slurped lemon shake-ups, and pulled cotton candy out of their kids’ hair.

Wearing a black top hat perched between his floppy ears, Barnabas tucked his trunk inside his mouth. He sucked it, worrying. What if he tripped going into the ring? What if he fell off the tub? On the other side of the tent, he spied Papa, Mama, and his big brother, Maximilian, also waiting their turn.
A yellow canary fluttered down to land on his tiny tusk. His best friend twisted her head to peer into his eye. “Barnabas, are you ready?”

He shook his head, and his trunk popped from his mouth. “No, Bird, I am not. What if I forget to bow again?”

She had no time to reply as the other performers rushed past. In the left ring, bug-eyed emus pranced. Golden Pomeranians danced. A party of peacocks strutted, twirled, and spun, while the calliope whistled.

In the right ring, a lone bear stood tall on his hind legs, roaring. Two shaggy lions snarled and swiped at a flaming hoop. Jeweled macaws perched safely above as the white lights dazzled and fazzled.

High above, across all three rings, trapeze artists gracefully swung from ropes. A dozen clowns tumbled and rolled below. Women in white flowing gowns balanced on huge gold balls.

No one stumbled. No one tripped. No one forgot to bow. Not one performer made a mistake, even though everyone was tired. Tomorrow, they'd head to their winter home in southern California for a month-long rest. But for now, they had a show.

Too soon for Barnabas, and ready or not, the other performers trailed out of the rings. The ringmaster marched to the center. He shouted because he was always shouting, “For our next act of the night, in the performances you’ve all been waiting for, I present our elephants. First, the world's largest elephants held in captivity—Giorgio, Florabella, and their son, Maximilian!”

Barnabas swelled with pride as his family swaggered into the center ring, magnificent in their headdresses and bells. The audience jumped to their feet, clapping, and snapping pictures. Too small to join his family, Barnabas’s act would be the last of the night.

In the large ring, Papa stood on his head on the round bull tub. Maximilian raised high on his back feet, and Mama danced. Someday, Barnabas would join them in the world's largest elephant family act. Someday, when he was 5,000 pounds heavier and seven feet taller, he'd be big enough. Someday, seemed far, far away.

After their act, Papa, Mama, and his big brother marched by Barnabas on the way out of the arena.
Maximilian tossed a peanut to Barnabas. “Here's my lucky charm, little brother. You need it more than me. Don’t fall off the tub this time.”

Barnabas caught the shell with his trunk and tucked it into the brim of his hat. He whispered, “Bird?”

“Don't be nervous,” she said. “You've done this a dozen times.”

“But...” he sputtered. “I always make a mistake. Max never makes mistakes.”

“No one notices, but you,” Bird said.

“Papa does. Papa always sees my mistakes.” Last week, Barnabas’s ear got folded under his head when he did a headstand. That hurt. A lot. And Papa yelled at him. That hurt too.

“Don't worry about Papa. The children love you.”

Yes, the children loved him. He was small, like them.

The calliope paused before whistling a long note.

“Now, Barnabas!” Bird zipped past the curtain and zoomed up and down around the center ring.
Barnabas charged in after her

                            and skidded to a stop!

The clowns forgot to change the round bull tub to the shorter square one. Barnabas didn't like the clowns, and they didn't like him. They forgot on purpose, he was sure of it! He'd never be able to get on top of the one Papa used. Barnabas swung his head from side to side, his trunk flailing. If he couldn't get on the bull tub, his finale, when he turned in circles until he was dizzy, would be ruined. It was his favorite part.

Bird swooped down and hovered in front of Barnabas. “What's wrong?”

“The bull tub!”

From the side of the tent, the ringmaster cracked the whip over his head. The calliope tooted as if to say
                   hurry,       hurry,       hurry.

“You can do it,” Bird tweeted.

But Barnabas knew he couldn't. He entered, stepping carefully over the metal ring, while the crowd stood, cheering, shrieking, and pointing. At least they were having a grand time.

The ringmaster raised the megaphone to his mouth. “For our final act of the night, I present our youngest elephant, Barnabas and his friend, Bird!”

Barnabas pointed his trunk at the bull tub and bellowed, but the ringmaster had already turned his back. The clowns sat at the side of the ring, playing cards and paying no attention to a small, quaking elephant.

Barnabas had learned during his life in the circus that the show must go on, and so, he trumpeted, raced around the circle, and skidded to a stop. He dipped his head and the top hat rolled down his trunk. He caught it at the tip and plopped it back on his head.

Bird flew down and landed on the wide brim. Barnabas's eyes crossed as he stared up at her. She giggled, and his nerves calmed, just a bit.

He stood on his hind legs, trunk in the air, and Bird landed on the tip. She rode his trunk as Barnabas waved it in the air. Barnabas sneezed, and Bird flew backward. The children gasped, and then screamed their delight, as Bird broke from her free-fall to swoop over their heads.

She landed on Barnabas's back. He raced, once, twice, three times around the ring until skidding to a stop in front of the stands. Bird hopped to the top of the black hat, and Barnabas became still.

The crowd leaned forward, intent on what came next.

Bird drew herself up, as tall as a canary can stand. A powerful warble came from her tiny little throat. The song wound through the air and golden sparkles dropped over the audience.

Children raised their hands, fingers fluttering, hoping to catch a piece of the magic.

As the song ended, the audience sighed, enchanted. Bird soared to the top of the tent and then floated down to land on a pole next to Barnabas.

 Barnabas bowed, touching his head to the ground. Wiggling his ears out of the way, he slowly, slowly, raised one back foot and then the other, until he ended in a wobbly headstand. Too soon, too soon, his feet crashed back to the ground. Yes, Papa would notice.

“It's time for our finale,” said Bird. “Be brave.”

Barnabas didn't feel brave. Not in the least. He picked one foot up at a time and plodded to the bull tub. Up, down, up, down. Step by step, he came closer to the center of the ring. The closer he came, the taller the bull tub loomed, until he stood in front of a giant mountain. He raised his right leg. It came to the middle of the side. He raised his left leg. It came an inch higher. Not high enough.

He turned and faced the audience. He placed one and then the other of his back feet up onto the red sides of the tub. No matter how hard he pushed, he couldn't go any higher. He couldn't make it to the top where a painted white star waited for him to perform his last trick.

Failure rolled around in his belly, as he skulked away.

The crowd grew silent,
the music faltered,
and the lights flickered.

Sweat poured from behind Barnabas's flappy ears. He backed up ten steps and one more. He reached up to touch the lucky peanut. If he ran, maybe, just maybe, he'd make it to the top. He raced around the ring and headed straight for the platform.

The crowd held their breath.

One step from the bull tub, Barnabas closed his eyes and launched himself toward the top.
       And he almost made it.
                   But he didn't.

Barnabas bounced off the side and tumbled over backward. He landed on his back with his legs wildly pedaling in the air. His black top hat flew across the ring. All he heard through the pounding in his ears was laughter.

The children.
The moms and dads.
The clowns.
Even the calliope tooted.

Barnabas squiggled and wiggled. He huffed, and he puffed. He could not, could not get off his back. All his weight pressed against his heart, and it hurt.

He lay in the sawdust, mortified.

Bird landed between his eyes. She whispered, “Roll to your side, Barnabas.”

Barnabas rolled over, onto his knees, and crawled out of the ring, back to the safety of his pen. He didn't look at Papa when he passed, he didn't hear Mama's soft voice saying she loved him, he didn't see Bird fly next to him. He did hear the deep rumble coming from Maximilian's throat as he asked, “What was that?”

Embarrassed and ashamed.

       That's what it was.

Illustration by Tanya Hales

Friday, July 14, 2017


I've loved this story from the day I started writing it. From the first page, it was the easiest and most fun novel I've written. I thought it was ready to query, but no yesses. It made it through a contest, but no requests. I sadly put it away and concentrated on something else.

Three years later, Barnabas and Bird haven't let go of my heart. I pulled it out, revised it in Sarah Aronson's online manuscript class, and am working through the ideas and suggestions. I've made a commitment to it. This is a story that needs to be told.

I'm making collages for some of the scenes. Here's the first one I made:

Monday, July 21, 2014


Thanks to Brooke Powell for inviting me to the Writing Process blog tour. You can check out her excellent post with beautiful pictures of yummy looking cakes at:

or follow her on twitter at:

@TheCakeNovelist   Brooke’s tweets are much funnier than mine, as I’m always trying to win free books from sites that give extra entries for posting tweets.

The idea behind the blog tour is that we writers share things informally during workshops and at conferences, but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions.

Here are the four questions:

1)   What am I working on?

I’ve worked on an upper middle grade fantasy called A TIME OF MAGIC – ZANDER'S CHOICE, for over two years. I write, I revise, I put it away. Recently, I've learned a few things about setting, so I’m back to revisions and having loads of fun. If you want to see the Pinterest page I made for my characters, you can check it out here:

And here’s the pitch:

Zander, along with all the fourteen-year-olds in Puck’s Gulch, undergoes a time of magic where he earns tokens for good behavior and omens for bad deeds. In a subsequent quest, the omens come to life as physical threats and can only be overcome by the right token. After Zander’s tokens are stolen by a jealous rival, his best hope of survival is to join the other questers to cheat Fate. It’s an unbearable choice because fighting with the others puts Zander’s twin sister’s life at risk. Behind the scene is Moira (Fate) who designed the test and insures that each teen flies true to their destiny.

But, wait – there’s more.

I’m querying a middle grade contemporary called THE QUEEN OF GREEN AND HER DOG ARTICHOKE as well as a middle grade animal narrative called BARNABAS AND BIRD.

Shameless self-promotion, I know, but I have great pictures on all the boards. And while I’m promoting, if you want to follow me on twitter, here’s my handle:


I’ll probably follow you back, unless you’re shamelessly promoting services or selling, really, just about anything.

2)   How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m going to answer a different question. Why do I write books so different from each other? Even though I write in different genres and for different ages, I think what’s important to me comes through in all of them. Fate, destiny, and the way we live our life based on what gets thrown at us. Yep, that’s it.

3)   Why do I write what I do?

Because it makes me incredibly happy.

And I really like animals, so I have them in every book.  A TIME OF MAGIC – ZANDER'S CHOICE has a coyote pup, THE QUEEN OF GREEN AND HER DOG ARTICHOKE has an adorable Pomeranian, and BARNABAS AND BIRD are an elephant and canary.

4)   How does my writing process work?

I’m not a morning person, so I seldom do anything productive before 11am Mountain time, and on most days it’s later. However, I do get brilliant ideas in the middle of the night, so I keep my iPhone next to the bed and send myself emails. Those ideas aren’t always as brilliant as I thought at 3am, but some are, so I keep doing it.

I write with a mechanical pencil designed for kids in a journal dedicated to one manuscript. I seldom know what I’m going to write, which makes me a pantser, and that means I write by the seat of my pants. I read lots of articles on why you should outline, plot, and brainstorm. I don’t agree with any of them for me. If it works for you, go for it. It’s hard enough to write without trying to do it someone else’s way. Trying to plot ahead of time gives me writer’s block and I never, repeat, never have writer’s block when I just let it flow.

After I get my story in a Word doc, I print it out to revise. Some stories like A TIME OF MAGIC – ZANDER'S CHOICE seem never ending when it comes to revisions. I wrote BARNABAS AND BIRD in less than three months and have done very little to revise it. QUEEN OF GREEN AND HER DOG ARTICHOKE is somewhere in the middle.

Okay, that’s about it. Now I get to introduce the writer that agreed to continue this game of tag.

I met Robin Korb during an online writing class. We liked each other’s writing, and she invited me to join an online critique group. Initially, I didn’t have time, but a year later, I moved to Colorado and had the brilliant idea not to get a real job, so I could write full-time. Critique groups are vital to new writers and this one’s been amazing. Robin’s the glue that keeps us together, so a HUGE thank you to Robin! We met live last year at the SCBWI Summer Conference in LA.

Her post will go up on July 29th at:

and you can connect with Robin on twitter with:


Congrats – you made it all the way to the end. I should give you a prize or something…. Hmm, maybe I’ll come up with something brilliant at 3am.

Or maybe not.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Barnabas plunged into the cold waters. Although he never had before, instinct bloomed and Barnabas swam.

Barnabas plunged into the cold waters. Instinct bloomed and Barnabas swam.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Barnabas reached up and pulled slender branches from the willow. He laid them long and straight in the shadow of the collapsed shed. With the tip of his trunk, he separated one, just one, and began to weave it through the planks.