Finding Inspiration

When I decided to pursue my writing dream, I imagined one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne visiting each morning, taking my hand, and guiding me to the computer. There, she would remain, offering words of encouragement until I produced my daily quota of words.

That was the fantasy.

The reality was very different.

I was unprepared for the tyranny of the blank page. While everything was in place—business cards, new computer, dreams of a runaway best-seller—my writing muscles refused to budge.

Continue reading on Brenda Whiteside’s blog.


All the World’s a Stage

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Judy Knight sharing her multi-act life and her latest release, A Raging Madness.

Here’s Jude!

Joanne’s Second Act series appealed to me; but which Second Act? In nearly 67 years of life, I’ve reinvented myself repeatedly, though always around the two themes that surfaced in my earliest childhood. And as I thought about that, the structure of this post surfaced in my mind. Shakespeare’s seven ages? Why not. I reckon I’m up to age five.

Welcome to the story of my life so far.

In the nurse’s arms: the story begins

I was a quiet baby, happy to be left alone to amuse myself. My mother claimed, with the benefit of hindsight, that I’d been telling stories in my crib.

The toddler who lined her dolls and teddies up and babbled to them in her own language lies too far back for me to remember. But I recall my role as chief architect of playground adventures when I was six or seven.

And at around the same age, I remember bringing home a younger child who was, or so I was convinced, neglected by her family. I made her a home in the chicken coop at the bottom of the garden, since it was between flocks at the time. I would be her mother, I said, and look after her. I robbed the kitchen for food for my new baby, read to her from my picture books, and left her reluctantly just on nightfall when it was time for dinner.

Poor little mite. Alone in the dark, she wanted to go home. My father, investigating the wails, rescued her and returned her to her family, and I was in deep disgrace, and heartbroken both at the loss of my child and at being in trouble for what, to me, had seemed like a good deed.

The twin themes of stories and children were now established, and it was that year I began confidently answering the perennial adult question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ with ‘a writer and a mother’.

Satchel and shining morning face: high school

I lost confidence as I grew older. I’m an introvert who spends most of her life inside her own head, and back then I hadn’t learned how to enjoy being with people.

Nearly all my fellow pupils marched to an entirely different tune, were in another parade entirely. Their motivations were a mystery to me; their likely response to anything I did or said a source of anxiety. By the time I arrived in high school, six weeks after the start of term and in a school 1000 miles north of the junior school I’d attended the previous year, I was expecting disaster. To my surprise, my high school years were not too bad, though that might be in part because I haunted the library, staggering away with piles of books, devouring them, and returning them within days.

But there were other compensations. The library was a magnet for other girls who enjoyed the same things I did. I also joined, and later led, the Students Christian Union. I made friends, and even (briefly) became a cheerleader.

I was blessed to have superb English teachers who fed my storytelling with the world’s great literature, a healthy dose of grammar and punctuation, and parts in the school plays. Leading roles in the last two years. For some mysterious reason, my terror at being conspicuous deserted me when I was on a stage speaking someone else’s words.

And my brand new baby brother was a dear delight.

Stories and children.

Sighing like furnace: early marriage

By the time I finished school, I had finished two (rather awful) novels, several plays, and any number of articles and short stories. Some of the latter had even been published. I was on my way to being a writer, and within six months I began working on the prerequisite to other goal. One day, at a prayer meeting, I met and fell in love with the man who is still my personal romantic hero (PRH), and he with me.

Neither family approved. We came from very different backgrounds, had very different interests, and seemed like chalk and cheese to anyone who didn’t look below the surface. But somehow it worked, if only because neither of us was willing to storm out of our marriage and admit to our parents that they’d been right.

Love led to the natural consequence: a first child, followed by three more. With six children (one with a complex set of disabilities), writing fiction took something of a back seat, though I continued to do articles for the local newspaper. And read. And imagined. And made up stories to tell my little ones.

Seeking the bubble reputation: the consultant

When my youngest started school, I was determined to focus on writing. I began to see some small successes: short stories on the radio and in magazines. I did the research and started writing a long complex family saga based on the New Zealand gold fields. And I planned a few other novels to follow.

But in the mid-1980s in New Zealand, interest rates took a sudden alarming jump, and I found a full-time job a squeak ahead of a forced sale by the bank who held our mortgage.

The job was writing computer software manuals. I knew sweet nothing about computers, but I told the interviewer that I could learn about computers faster than he could learn to write. Turned out he wrote plays. Oops.

One thing led to another. Despite adding two more children to our family when a friend died, I continued working full time from that day to this. The software company was followed by a partnership with another writer, offering a full range of business writing and editing services. Later, I set up a company with the PRH to write, edit, and design business publications.

In the last thirty years, I’ve held most roles associated with writing for business, from technical writer to public relations manager.

And I fed my storytelling habit by reading other people’s books, making up stories and playing story games with my children, and continuing my lifelong practice of seeing my own plots unfold inside my head whenever I was not otherwise occupied.

Many times, I started to write a novel, and something would happen. For example, I was grandmother in residence for two of our grandchildren for a number of years. Stories and children.

Full of wise saws: the novelist

And so we come to the present. Reinvention of Jude Knight, part 5. Several years ago, my mother died. She had always supported my desire to write fiction, and I’d done little with it while she lived. It was a wake-up call, and one I heeded. I had more than 60 plot ideas written out, and 40 or so were set in the late Georgian era. Others were history in other eras, fantasy, speculative fiction, murder mysteries, and contemporaries, but the Georgian/Regency drew me.

I devoted myself to research for eighteen months until it dawned on me that I’d found another way to procrastinate. I realised I was frightened of ‘coming out’ as a writer of historical fiction; afraid I would be no good. So I gave myself something else to fear more, by telling my friends and family what I was writing, and that I intended publication. Now I was stuck. If I didn’t finish, I’d look foolish.

So three years on and four and a half novels, six novellas, and ten short stories later, I’m a published writer. Stories and children.

Lean and slippered: the kuia

The play will continue, and each act will bring new challenges and new joys. My guiding passions continue to be my God, my PRH, and my children (including, now, my fictional children). Will I reinvent myself again? I’ll slow down, of course, if only because the body will demand it. But you have to admit the themes have been consistent, at essence. Stories and children.

Second childhood: a disgraceful old age

Shakespeare was considerably more pessimistic in this speech than I. Even if I reach the sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything, I look forward to a new beginning on the other side of death.

But while I’m on this earth I intend to enjoy myself to the best of my ability: to wear purple, to dance, to annoy my children and grandchildren with my irreverent attitude to society’s shibboleths. I picture myself with a marker pen and chalk, cruising the sidewalks on my mobility scooter, looking for grammar and spelling errors to correct in other people’s signs. Or perhaps I’ll just stay home and tell stories to my great great grandchildren.

Blurb

Ella survived an abusive and philandering husband, in-laws who hate her, and public scorn. But she’s not sure she will survive love. It is too late to guard her heart from the man forced to pretend he has married such a disreputable widow, but at least she will not burden him with feelings he can never return.

Alex understands his supposed wife never wishes to remarry. And if she had chosen to wed, it would not have been to him. He should have wooed her when he was whole, when he could have had her love, not her pity. But it is too late now. She looks at him and sees a broken man. Perhaps she will learn to bear him.

In their masquerade of a marriage, Ella and Alex soon discover they are more well-matched than they expected. But then the couple’s blossoming trust is ripped apart by a malicious enemy. Two lost souls must together face the demons of their past to save their lives and give their love a future.

Excerpt

Before she had even consciously taken in the scene, she was moving, pulling Mrs Broadley further from the kettle that, in falling from its hook, had splashed her with quarts of boiling water. The heat of it soaked into her light house slippers, but only for a moment as she drew Mrs Broadley out of the splash zone.

She sent the maid who ran in from the scullery out to find snow, while she helped Mrs Broadley strip out of her wet garments, relieved that the housekeeper had recovered enough to see the need, and within a few minutes Mrs Broadley was on a couch in the room they were currently using as the housekeeper’s office, stripped to her corset and wrapped in a blanket, with cloth bundles of snow against the long reddened scald on her leg, and the more troubling burns on one foot.

Fortunately, the heavy woollen gown, petticoats, and home knitted stockings had kept most of the heat from the leg, but the foot was already blistering where it caught the full force of the water.

Ella set some of those who had arrived for the day’s work to cleaning the mess and re-laying the fire, had Broadley fetched from the stable yard to be with his wife, and asked Miller to fetch her medical chest.

Alex arrived with Broadley, but diverted to the fireplace, to examine the crane and the kettle. As Ella came back out of the housekeeper’s room to give the Broadleys a few moments alone, Alex was examining the horizontal bar of the chimney crane, and particularly the thick leather strap from which the cook hung kettles and pots. Only part of the strap remained. He was unfastening it as Ella came up beside him.

“How is Mrs Broadley?” he asked, glancing sideways at her.

“She escaped the worst,” Ella assured him. “The foot will be painful for a while, and she may have a scar, but if we can avoid contagion that will be the sum of it. But how did it happen, Alex? You and Dodd inspected this equipment not a week ago.”

Silently, he held up the broken end, and her eyes widened. “How could it split like that? That looks like a clean cut.”

He nodded, his face sombre.

“Alex, no.” But denial would not change the facts. The strap had been cut almost through, leaving a bare quarter inch of leather to take the weight of a large iron kettle full of water.

“Do you have the other end, Ella?” Alex asked.

They hunted together, and Ella found it first, retrieving it from under the kitchen table: twelve inches of leather with the iron pot hook attached at one end and the other severed almost cleanly, bar the stretched and torn fragment whose failure had injured poor Mrs. Broadley.

“Who would do such a thing?” Ella wondered. “And why?”

Buy Links

Jude’s Book Page | Smashwords | iBooks | Barnes and Noble | Amazon (U.S.)

Bio

Jude Knight’s writing goal is to transport readers to another time, another place, where they can enjoy adventure and romance, thrill to trials and challenges, uncover secrets and solve mysteries, delight in a happy ending, and return from their virtual holiday refreshed and ready for anything.

She writes historical novels, novellas, and short stories, mostly set in the early 19th Century. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.


Where to find Jude Knight…

Website and Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Smashwords | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page | Email

To win a Made-to-Order Story, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.


Happy Take a Chance Day!

In celebration of Take a Chance Day and Poetry Month, I am sharing one of my favorite poems about risk-taking.

To Risk

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To live is to risk dying,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.

Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is free.

The pessimist complains about the wind;

The optimist expects it to change;

And the realist adjusts the sails.

William Arthur Ward


Stumbling Onto Success

dancing1

“If you stumble, make it part of the dance.”(Author Unknown)

When I came across this quotation on my Pinterest travels, I immediately pinned it and within minutes, others were repining and liking it. I also shared this message with my friends, many of whom tend to fixate on each snafu in their lives, often ignoring the bigger picture.

I recall one friend who spent almost an hour listing everything that had gone wrong at a recent event she had chaired. When I read the glowing write-up in the paper, I couldn’t believe it was the same event. No mention was made of the last-minute menu changes or frantic scramble to replace the emcee who had come down with the flu. Without realizing it, my friend just kept stumbling on and everything turned out for the best.

Much like what happened with many well-known inventions that were accidents stumbled upon by sloppy, distracted, and temperamental professionals.

Fried to a Crisp

As head chef at Carey Moon Lake House in Saratoga Springs (1853), George Crum catered to a wealthy clientele. One day, a customer complained about his potatoes and sent them back to the kitchen several times, suggesting they be cut thinner and fried longer. Crum lost his temper and decided to get back at the customer. He cut the potatoes extra thin, fried them until they were crisps, and salted them. To everyone’s surprise, the customer asked for a second helping. The news spread quickly about these Saratoga chips which later become known as potato chips.

saratoga1

All Covered in Goo

In 1879, chemist Constantin Fahlberg was experimenting with new uses for coal tar. He became so engrossed in his research that he forgot about his supper. Hungry and tired, he rushed out of the lab, forgetting to wash his hands. While eating, he noticed that his bread tasted unusually sweet. When he wiped his mustache with a napkin, he found the napkin tasted sweet as well. Curious, he stuck his thumb in his mouth and tasted more of the sweetness. He returned to the laboratory where he tasted every beaker and dish until he found the one that contained saccharin.

artificial-sweeteners.jpg

Unwashed Dishes

In his haste to leave for a long overdue vacation, Alexander Fleming did not bother washing any of the dirty petri dishes stacked up at his workstation. When he returned from his holiday, he discovered that most had been contaminated. While dumping the dishes in a large vat of Lysol, one dish caught his eye. The dish was practically all covered in colonies of bacteria, except for one area where a blob of mold was growing. After close examination, he saw that the mold had blocked the bacteria from growing. He concluded that this mold—later called penicillin—could be used to kill a wide range of bacteria.

penicillin2

Inspiration…Blowing in the Wind

Pink tutus and pointe shoes.

Walls of mirrors and hours of practice.

The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

These are the images that come to mind whenever we think of little girls and their ballerina dreams.


A world away and a world apart from Mabinty Bangura.

Born in Sierra Leone during the Civil War, Mabinty was orphaned at three years of age after her father was shot by rebels and her mother starved to death. Suffering from vitiligo, a skin condition that produced white freckles on her neck and chest, she was called a “devil’s child” by the other girls and women at the orphanage. Known as Number 27, Mabinty ranked at the very bottom of the orphanage’s ranking system. Her only companion was Mia, Number 26, who was shunned for being left-handed.

On a windy day, a magazine swept up against a fence in the orphanage yard. Fascinated by the beautiful young girl on the cover, Mabinty quickly tore it off and hid it under her clothes. Later she explained: “She was in this beautiful tutu and she was on pointe. And she looked so happy to me at the time, and it was perfect timing because I was going through so much and she gave me hope to keep going.”

When a couple from New Jersey arrived to adopt Mia, they decided to also adopt her defiant friend. Away from Sierra Leone, Mabinty realized she was finally in a safe place. She took out the magazine photo and showed it her new mother, who enrolled her in dance school.

Following the dream wasn’t always easy.

After preparing to play Marie in The Nutcracker, she was told that someone else would get the part because the world was not ready for a black Marie. Another instructor commented that she did not have the classic ballet body. At five feet four and a half inches, she was considered too short and her feet did not have that coveted classical line. And the pink and white standard colors for ballet wear clashed with her ebony complexion.

Undaunted, Mabinty (now known as Michaela DePrince) pressed on and worked hard to give her feet a classical line. Her mother hand-dyed her costume straps and pointe shoes a deep brown. At one point, Michaela did consider quitting ballet, but changed her mind after seeing black dancer Heidi Cruz perform with the Pennsylvania Ballet.

In 2012, eighteen-year-old Michaela De Prince became the youngest member of the acclaimed Dance Theater of Harlem. At eighteen, she joined the Dutch National Junior Company as a second-year member and apprentice to the main company. Three years later, Michaela was promoted to the rank of Grand Sujet for The Dutch National Ballet’s main company.

In 2013 Michaela collaborated with her mother to write her memoir, Taking Flight. The mother-daughter team has also worked together on Hope in a Ballet Shoe and Ballerina Dreams, a Step-into-Reading book for young readers between the ages of six and eight years old.







This amazing young woman, who radiates poise and quiet confidence, hopes to inspire other girls to purse ballet. In a recent interview, she said: “I take what’s in my past and put it in my body. My life is proof that no matter what situation you’re in, as long as you have a supportive family, you can achieve anything.”


Life Lessons from Noah’s Ark

While writing this post, I’m enjoying a cup of my favorite tea–Flora Echinacea Elderberry with Cranberry and Rooibos–and smiling contentedly as I contemplate not going out in the rain. When it rains several days in a row, I prefer to stay warm and dry indoors.

The cool, wet weather motivates me to plan and work ahead. These past two days, I’ve filed and decluttered, cleaned my condo, written several posts and reviews, and worked on the launch of my upcoming cozy, Too Many Women in the Room. But improved work habits aren’t the only benefits to be gained from rainy days or the anticipation of rainy days.

Here are 9 life lessons from Noah’s Ark:

1. Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

2. Stay fit. When you’re 60 years old, you may be asked to do something really big.

3. Remember that we are all in the same boat.

4. Don’t miss the boat.

5. Build your future on high ground.

6. For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.

7. Speed isn’t always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

8. When you are stressed, float awhile.

9. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

Source: Inspirational Jokes


Happy National Find a Rainbow Day

Today is National Find a Rainbow Day, a time to reflect upon the beauty and magnificence of those multicolored arcs that remind us of the hope and possibilities that exist in Nature and in our own lives.

Here are my 10 favorite “rainbow” quotes:

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud. Maya Angelou

There comes a point in your life when you realize your hardest times are your best times, too—you will see the rainbow of your life. Roy Bennett

And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow. G.K. Chesterton

If you want to see a rainbow you have to learn to see the rain. Paulo Coelho

When you reduce life to black and white, you never see rainbows. Rachel Houston

The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.
Dolly Parton

One can enjoy a rainbow without necessarily forgetting the forces that made it. Mark Twain

Rainbows apologize for angry skies. Sylvia Voirol

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky…
William Wordsworth

Don’t miss all the beautiful colors of the rainbow looking for that pot of gold. Author Unknown

Do you have a favorite “rainbow” quote?