## Happy PI Day by John E. Stack

Happy ∏ Day. March 14th.  3.14. That is ‘p-i,’ not ‘p-I-e’.  Pi is an irrational number; it is a non-repeating, non terminating decimal that is used when solving geometry problems dealing with circles.  It is pattern-less.  Pi is the ratio of the diameter of a circle to the circumference of the same circle.

This is not my normal blog.  I usually write about my kids, life in general and various other topics.  Today, my inner nerd comes out.  I am a middle school math teacher and everyone knows that in some form or fashion, almost all teachers are nerds of some sort.  Math nerds are a special group, misunderstood by most of mankind.

PI.  Even though pie is how we mathematicians normally celebrate our special day, we allow others to indulge along with us.  Normally, it is with chocolate pies, but any type of pie will do.  Pizza pies will work, but only if they are round (not square) and the slices are cut through the center-point going the entire diameter of the pie.  Each slice should have edges that are the length of the radius.

In ancient days, a few years before I was born, it was believed that the circumference of a circle was about three times of the diameter, or a 3:1 ratio.  In the Bible, pi is referenced in 1 Kings, “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from one brim to the other: it was round all about, and his height was five cubits: and a line of thirty cubits did encompass it about.”

Other cultures have used different values to represent pi.  Archimedes of Syracuse, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the ancient world discovered that pi was approximated by using a 96- sided hexagon.  Many formulas have been used to represent pi, but it wasn’t until the 1700’s that a British mathematician named William Jones defined pi as

Π = 3.14159.

This was adopted by Euler and became the standard.  Recently, pi was calculated to over one trillion digits.

Enough of that.  I may be a math nerd, but it usually doesn’t last very long.  Normally, we celebrate each year by having the students compete by reciting the most decimal places for pi.  I believe that in the past nineteen years most students were able to memorize twenty to thirty digits.  Only a few have exceeded 100 digits.  I have had only one to go way beyond that – 240 digits.  After that, no one wanted to compete.  In order to compete students had to memorize at least 10 digits.  If no one in the class could recite 10 digits, I got to eat pie.  I only got to eat chocolate pie once in nineteen years.  Tasted pretty good and of course it was homemade.  This year there will be no competition in my classes.  Currently, I teach sixth grade.  We don’t hit circles until next year.

So, in the grand scheme of things, what does this all mean?  You can use any reason to eat pie, even math.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

Filed under fun, Humor, John Stack, writing

## Be the Example by John E. Stack

I had a date this past week and my date was one of the prettiest girls there.  I’m sure that every other guy believed the same about their date, but theirs didn’t even come close. She wore an emerald green dress and her hair was fixed just so. She looked good and she knew it – you could tell by the way she carried herself.  She was ready for an evening of partying and dancing.  This date had cost me at least \$50 and we hadn’t even dined or arrived at the dance.  Who knew what to expect.

When she saw me, her eyes just sparkled.  She told me that I looked very handsome – not something most men hear when they arrive to pick up their dates.  We were running a little behind schedule, but we knew that we would arrive at the Father/Daughter dance right on time.

I decided many years ago, and I was strongly encouraged by my wife, that I would be the first guy that my daughters dated. I hoped that the example I presented would help influence the decisions that they would make in the future.  I wanted them to always believe that they were special and they deserved to be treated that way.

My dad taught me the proper way to behave toward ladies, and it is a shame that the dads of today don’t believe that it is important.  I was born in the 50s, 1953 to be exact, and I still believe what my dad said. Too many men, today, believe that men and women should be treated equal.

Dad said to always treat a girl with respect. What does that mean?  First off, when you pick her up for a date, ask for her at the door, don’t blow the horn from the curb. Then open doors – car doors, restaurant doors, any doors. And by all means, don’t use foul language around her. And last of all, be even nicer to her mom (this one will go a long way.) Oh, and one more thing.  Just because you asked a girl out on a date and paid for it doesn’t mean she owes you anything. Yes, the guy should pay for the dates until you both have discussed taking turns paying.

Any time I take my wife out, this is how I behave. So, when I take my daughters out I act the same way.  I want to be the example that my daughters compare their dates to.  My opinion is that if the guy doesn’t treat you better than I do, then he doesn’t appreciate you for who you really are.  Therefore, that guy doesn’t deserve to go out with you.

Though I would never admit it when I was young, my dad was a lot smarter that I wanted to give him credit for. He gave me advice on a lot of things, but I won’t go into them right now. I need to get back to the story of my date.

She was kind of shy at first, but when she saw everyone dancing we had to hit the floor. We danced several songs and she got thirsty, so we took a break to get food and something to drink.  We were back on the dance floor after a few bites and really had a blast.  It is difficult to slow dance when you are six foot and she is only three and a half feet.

I only really embarrassed her once.  I tried to get her to do the chicken dance, but she was having none of that.  So, she laughed at me while I danced.

I got her back home before curfew, around 8:30, and right before bedtime.  He mom was happy that we made it home with time to spare.

Dads, I challenge you to be the example for both your sons and your daughters.  Teach your sons the correct way to behave when dating, and tech your daughters to except nothing less.  You will seldom be disappointed.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

Filed under John Stack, life, musings, writing

## Sleepless Nights

Have you ever had one of those nights when you could not sleep, no matter what, your eyes popped open and your brain ran a million miles per hour?  I have, I believe we all have them once and a while.  Sometimes I lay in bed, hoping that sleep will come, other times I get up and go watch the idiot box, otherwise known as the television.

There may be a good film on Turner Classic Movies, but usually they have something really odd airing in the wee hours of the morning.  The other stations are loaded with what they call “infomercials” those half hour or hour long spots that take advantage of their time to hammer the viewer with all the reasons their product is the one to buy.

My question is: If this product is so good, why do we not see a regular ad on during normal hours when we are bombarded with a plethora of thirty second to one minute spots selling us more rubbish that we don’t need.

So many of the ads, no matter when they air, tell us how our lives are incomplete without their product.  They tell us that we are not enough on our own, or we are not good enough just as we are.  But we need not worry because their product, and their product alone will improve our sex life, make us look more successful or get us into the right circle of friends and business associates.  With their product our lives will be complete.  Many of these ads try to sell us the miracle pill or cookery product that will help us to lose those unwanted extra pounds that are making us miserable and our lives a failure.

These ads reiterate over and over again the Be-Do-Have scenario.

That translated into ~~ what we should aspire to BE, before we can DO certain things in order to HAVE the life we want, and suddenly, miraculously, with their product clasped tightly in out hot little hands, our lives will be perfect.

To that I say: Rubbish.

This belief system is like standing at the train station waiting for the train that will take us to the next stop along the way, and when we get there everything will be wonderful, stress free and perfect.

Life, no matter what, is thick, deep and messy.

Life is not an easy stroll through the garden.  Life is a struggle, and we are always trying to do better in our lives for ourselves and for those we love.  We are each unique and wonderful people.  We should celebrate and embrace our unique qualities and do the same for others, accept them for the unique treasure that they are.

So what happens to the BE – DO – HAVE scenario?

We should aspire to BE is ourselves, just our genuine self with the gifts, loves, joys and shortcomings that make us uniquely who we are.  There is nothing that we need to DO or buy or become before we can HAVE the life we want.  When we embrace ourselves, as we are, there we begin to have the life that is not always seeking something else, something we are fooled into believing will be better.  We need not wait for the train that will never come, because there is no place that will magically Poof us into perfection.  There is no product that can transform us as they would lead us to believe.

Is the grass greener on the other side?  It may look that way from where your are standing, however, whoever may be on that other side may see that your grass is greener than theirs.  Perspective.

Don’t waste your life waiting for the train, hoping the thing you buy will make the difference, for those are not the things that will bring long lasting joy or peace.  Being at peace with who you are, oh yes, do work to improve, but first love who you are in the moment, flaws and all.  Make the most of the moment.

All you need to BE is yourself, all you need to DO is love who you are and accept yourself as a wonderful, unique treasure, and HAVE the life you want, because it is right there within your grasp as long as you do not grasp for things that are dangled before you like a brass ring that corrodes once you have it in hand.

S. M. Senden author Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries and A Death of Convenience and Other Short StoriesWWW.SMSENDEN.wordpress.com

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Filed under writing

## The Good, The Bad, and The Useless

Just like gossip, give a story to five different editors and you might get back five different edited copies. When this happens to me, I try to find a common theme in the critiques. In one instance years ago, a novella I wrote was reviewed by seventeen different classmates and received seventeen wildly different edits. This was the first, and so far, only time I’ve had that happen.

When you submit your writing for editing and critiquing, what advice do you consider accepting? What do you reject? And what editing do you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh at?

In some cases, it may depend on the type of person you are. Do you follow the crowd or do you break out of the pack? Do you believe everything or do you always have questions? Or, like most of the rest of us, are you a little of both? Whatever your personality, taking advice from someone else concerning your writing should always be taken with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor.

Individuality makes a story glow. If the advice you receive from someone else changes your story too much, then it ceases to be your story – it turns into someone else’s writing.

I have a friend who is a literature professor and he’s just like that: the only high grades in his classes are from those students who learn to mimic my friend’s writing style. I’ve never let him edit any of my own efforts because I already know how it would turn out: my story would cease to be my own and would mutate into his version.

That’s not to say some stories don’t need major overhauls – some of mine have and I’ve redone them accordingly when I’ve received good advice. However, when a good story you’ve written is edited with the intent to change the theme or style, that’s when it’s useless advice. Stick to your guns, or pens, and get a second or third or fifteenth opinion.

Bad advice is just that: bad, mean-spirited and it follows a dark path.  Bad advice is recognized by its very personal overtones: phrases like “This really sucks” and “I’ve never heard anything so stupid” or, the classic, “You call yourself a writer?” and other direct attacks.

How often do you get bad or mediocre advice? Are you able to “read between the lines” and recognize when someone is purposely trying to mislead you? What is the best advice you’ve been given and by whom?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Filed under books, life, writing

## The Nasally Conundrum by J J Dare

A long time ago, I gave bad advice to someone. It only changed this person’s life for a blink, but it changed mine forever.

Over the years, I’ve talked to a few people about it and the general consensus was this person was going to veer in a different direction in life and what I had to say at the time was only a feathery nudge, not a full-fledged push. However, at the time it felt as if I was responsible for the course change.

As I grow older and a tiny bit wiser, I realize most people take advice in one ear and out the other. If my advice proves correct and they don’t act on it, I’ll sometimes get a “You were right” acknowledgment. Being right rarely makes me feel good for more than a few seconds.

Advice and encouragement are two different animals. Advice tends to deal with conflicting situations in a person’s life. Encouragement is the cheering squad after a person makes a decision. I like to be the cheerleader rather than the coach.

Advice relies on expertise in a field. I rebel somewhat when it comes to experts, even when I believe I am one. After all, what was correct one hundred years ago or even yesterday is not necessarily correct today.

In addition, individuals have different needs and goals. What works for one may not work for another. Expert advice should be tailored, but I imagine most experts would not take kindly to altering their cemented opinions for different people.

Encouragement is the after party. “You can do this” sounds so much better than “I told you so.” The planted seedling is sprouting and you get to be an attentive gardener. As an encourager, you are not directly responsible for the success of the plant. Victory or defeat is ultimately up to the plant.

I try not to give opinionated advice; I try to offer only suggestions. I’m glad to declare my children still listen to me, but they make their own decisions. My only expertise comes from the course of my own life. If someone looks at my history and can relate in a way that is helpful to them, I’m glad.

My history includes my adventures in writing. The cold fact remains that my writing is what it is. I can’t change how I tell a tale. Even when I write in different genres, my style bleeds through.

A while back, in half jest I told my publisher that I knew how to disappear and live under the grid. I’d learned how from all the research I’d done when writing my books. He told me that he’d know my writing style no matter what name I chose to write under.

The way we, the authors, write is unique to each of  us. In the immortal words of Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” So is everyone else no matter how much we want to change how they write or walk or eat or anything else.

Advice, suggestions and opinions, whether directed to me or coming from me, have merit. But, even when I put myself in another person’s shoes, I am not that person. There are too many unknown nuances and variables in individuals. The way I handle wanted and unwanted advice and opinions is to mix them all together like cake batter, put the mixture in a pan in the oven and bake it for the best.

So, my peoples, the moral to this tale is I fight the urge to give irrevocable opinions which end up making me sound like a nasally pompous ass. I’m working hard to be an ebb and flow counselor. I’m attempting to overcome the part of human nature that wants the accolades due for correctly telling the future of another.

In honor of my live and let live attitude today, I feel the need to let my hippy side loose for a quick second:

Don’t let your own self-righteousness drag you down.

Fly a little freer and lighten the heavy load of your opinion.

Right on, man. Right on.

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Filed under life

## Words of Wisdom For Dreamers by Coco Ihle

We’ve all had dreams. What are yours? Have you had some fulfilled? Are you still in the process of realizing your desires?

Doggedly pursuing our dreams gives us a sense that they may come to fruition, that we may actually accomplish something in our pursuit. The more passion and determination we possess, the easier it is to move forward to our goals, and having a support system helps us emotionally and practically.

Years ago when I first started writing, I shared with friends my goal of writing a book. Some encouraged me to go for it, some said it would be too difficult, an impossible accomplishment. I chose to go for it, despite what pitfalls I might encounter. One friend in particular shared with me a poem that has been a mainstay in my quest. I don’t know the author, but I would thank him/her if I could. Here it is. I hope it will encourage you, as well.

I wish I were a could be

if I could not be an are.

For a could be is a maybe

with a chance of reaching far.

I’d rather have been a has been

than a might have been, by far.

For a might have been has never been,

while a has was once an are.

This time of year, we tend to reminisce about the past events in our lives. I’ve been thinking about the journey I’ve made to become a published author. As I look back, it hasn’t been short or easy, but it has been rewarding. Persistence through all the stumbling blocks, and even working through discouragement from time to time, has made my dream come true. My wish for you as this year comes to a close and a new one begins, is that you have a good support system, dogged determination and persistence to make your dreams come true. I think it’s worth it. I hope you do, too.

I’d love to hear any secrets you may have in fulfilling your dreams.

Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings, writing

## The Benefits of Conventions and Conferences by Coco Ihle

What is the difference between conventions and conferences? My belief is that conventions are mainly for fans, but are also attended by writers, agents, editors, and publishers; whereas conferences are geared more toward the craft and business of the writing and publishing world.

I like to include both for a well-rounded perspective. My field is mystery and I classify what I write as traditional, maybe even cosy books. When deciding which to choose, my eye is open to how I can learn the most about my craft and whether or not I have the opportunity to meet other authors to ask what has and hasn’t worked for them. I also look for the chance to meet potential fans.

Another benefit to going to conventions and conferences is the infectious enthusiastic atmosphere that permeates every nook and cranny there. I started attending these events years before I had a book published,
and upon returning home, I couldn’t wait to get back to my writing in progress. I was refreshed and filled with the desire to exercise some of the ideas I had just learned, to try out a new approach with my characters or plot, or just bask in the delight of the new friendships I had made.

At first, smaller venues seemed to provide me with the most “bang for my buck” by the very fact that there were more opportunities and time to make the connections I wanted. The larger ones were good for showing me more of the whole picture and exposing me to more genres.

For beginners, I would suggest starting at smaller cons and conferences and work your way to larger ones. That way your experiences won’t be so overwhelming. Bouchercon, for instance, can seem a bit intimidating to a
newbie, although thrilling in its immenseness.

Everyone, these days, talks about the importance of networking. Cons and conferences are perfect occasions for this. Putting away your shy streak is tough, but necessary. Meet everyone you can. You’re most likely a reader, a fan. Start by complimenting a favorite author. If you don’t have one, you certainly will by the end of the event—probably several. Be brave, you’ll be so glad you were.

I’m off to Bouchercon next week. Wish me luck!

Filed under blogging, books, Coco Ihle, fiction, marketing, musings, writing

## Parenting teenagers: any advice is welcome

First I have to brag on my kids a tiny bit. Despite being teenagers, they are good kids who make me proud. They both made straight As this last quarter, and they are involved in wholesome activities, like marching band, soccer, yearbook and dance. They’ve never done anything to break my trust, but some things make me wonder … so I ask a lot of questions. As a result, my son, 15, and my daughter, 13, recently told me I was too nosy. Is there such a thing as being too nosy when you’re a parent and your children are the object of your nosiness?

A few things that make me pause:

My son recently told me that a friend, a girl (but not girlfriend) has a nice sound system in her bedroom. Should I be suspicious?

My daughter informs me of her boyfriends though facebook. Should I be insisting that she tell me in person?

They are both voracious texters. How do other parents of teenagers feel about looking at their kids’ cell phone texts? I sneak a peek once in a while, but don’t do it openly. If I did, I imagine the nosy complaints would get much louder. AND, they’d be erasing the good stuff. So far, I haven’t found anything too shocking.

A few things that drive me nuts:

Housework. How much housework do other parents make their teenagers do on a daily basis? I find it interesting that they can remember anything related to their social life, but whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher is impossible to remember. I’m about to assign odd/even days for things, so that I can easily keep up. Anyone have any other good ideas on how to make teenagers remember household chores?

TV. Is anyone in favor of getting rid of the TV? Has anyone tried it? My husband is the biggest hindrance to this plan in our house, so it will never happen. But I remember when I was growing up, we didn’t have a TV for a while and it made me read. I might never be the reader I am, if it hadn’t been for that period of TV-lessness.

Clothes: Suddenly the consignment store clothes aren’t good enough.

Attitude. I officially know much less than they do. And I don’t dress well enough. And I’m weird about what foods they should be eating. And if I stray outside the rigid norm, I am an embarrassment.

A few things that hurt:

Volunteering at their schools is not encouraged anymore.

I’m a chauffeur now, rather than someone to do fun things with.

The dancing-around-the-house-for-fun is not something they do with me anymore.

The goodnight hugs aren’t as intense as they used to be.

But I understand … they’re growing up!

I SO appreciate the time I have left, especially when I think that:

Some 15-year-old boys signed up to fight in the Civil War.

Some 13-year-old girls were considered marriageable in eras past (perhaps in some cultures today, too).

As much as they annoy at times, I already know I’ll hate the empty nest.

But, from what I hear, there’s a good chance they’ll move back home eventually. Then I’ll be asking for advice on how to deal with adult children. LOL.

Lucy Balch

Love Trumps Logic

Available at Amazon and through Second Wind Publishing

Filed under writing

## Prologue–Yes or No?

I’ve begun to tweak and polish the next book of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series and have come up with a bit of a stumbling block. ICE ON FIRE begins with a Prologue, followed by Chapter 1 which takes place 15 years later.

Many say not to begin with a Prologue—readers skim them, but I’ve never had an objection and do not skip a single word of how a book starts out (as long as the read is compelling, of course).

It is somewhat essential to preface the opening pages of ICE ON FIRE as a Prologue due to the passage of time . . . however maybe I’m wrong. What do you think? Do you have an objection to a novel starting out as a Prologue?

I’m sure many writers and readers would be interested in whatever advice you care to offer.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent book stores.

Filed under fiction, writing

## A Little Advice – by Deborah J Ledford

I’m getting ready to submit my next thriller novel to my publisher Second Wind Publishing and find myself in a bit of a quandary. In the first book of my Steven Hawk/Inola Walela series, Staccato, Hawk is the deputy of a sleepy county in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. ICE ON FIRE is the title of the next book and as the novel is now written, Hawk is the Sheriff. My agent wanted me to essentially promote Hawk to a higher level, but I’m thinking perhaps I should wait to elevate his position until the final book in the series: REDEMPTION.

Since I already have a publisher I am honored to be aligned with, I no longer have the need for an agent and I can do whatever I want with my words. But of course I wish what is best for the novel and certainly don’t want to risk what I already have written any harm. Changes can be dicey—there’s always the fear of missing something (even if merely a name change). And although the manuscript will be re-read and revised until my mind is numb, there’s a chance that some elements may be overlooked.

What do you think? And have you ever been faced with a similar situation?

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel Staccato, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle and independent book stores.