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Sunday, July 29, 2018

The indecipherable code of longhand, cursive, and shorthand

cj Sez: Don’t know what’s happening where you are, but Mobile County Schools open for business on August 6.
That could just as well be a student.
   I used to have to go back (in Michigan) the first Wednesday after Labor Day, whatever the date of that Wednesday. What do I wish for students affected by these extra days and weeks?

   I wish every student will have Civics, American and International History, Reading, and of course, writing, which they call “cursive” now. You know how sad it is that longhand/cursive/handwriting is not part of the curriculum, or if it is, not being reinforced? 

   A few years ago, a young woman, age 17 or 18, testified in court that her boyfriend had written her a note saying that he was afraid of the man who followed him. He was afraid he would be harmed. When the defense attorney produced the note and asked her to read it aloud to the court, she admitted that she did not read “cursive.”  Forget about the lie to protect her boyfriend and condemn his assailant. Perjury happens in many courts.

   The awful scary part is . . . She. Did. Not. Know. How. To. Read. Cursive.

   I used to quip that if I kept up my shorthand, I  could start a secret code that no one could decipher. Now I think if I simply write in longhand (cursive), I can accomplish the same thing.

I see interviews with college kids who don’t even know how many states there are.

The education system is failing, profoundly failing, our next generation because they don’t want the conflict of teaching all the students the same information. They are often prevented by boards of education from failing a student.

   The buck stops with us.

Okay, off the soap box. Here’s a quick science lesson:

Did you feel the tug of a full moon on Friday?

   Friday’s total lunar eclipse lasted the longest of any in this century (never mind that there are a lot of years left in the 21 st century, and how does anyone know how long they will last?). Unfortunately, the eclipse wasn’t visible in all of the United State but much of Europe, Much of Asia, Australia, Africa, South in North America, South America, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and Antarctica saw at least some parts of the celestial show. Now I have to say, I live in “South in North America,” but only a partial eclipse was visible.

   A little Google research reveals why a total eclipse is called a “blood moon.” The Moon does not have any light of its own—it shines because its surface reflects sunlight. During a total lunar eclipse, the Earth moves between the Sun and the Moon and cuts off the Moon's light supply. When this happens, the surface of the Moon takes on a reddish glow instead of going completely dark.

   Scientifically, the reason why the Moon takes on a reddish color during totality is a phenomenon called Rayleigh scattering. It is the same mechanism responsible for causing colorful sunrises and sunsets, and for the sky to look blue.

   Fun fact: If you were ever lucky enough to see a total lunar eclipse from the moon, you'd see a red ring around the Earth. In effect, you'll be seeing all the sunrises and sunsets taking place at that specific moment on Earth!

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


And there’s still a few days left for some fun and fast vacation reading…stop by Amazon and pick up copies of DEADLY STAR and CHOOSING CARTER, and I shall be forever grateful. (Just click on the covers.)

Choosing Carter
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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Food for thought

cj Sez: To say the weather is sweltering where I live would be an understatement. Today’s heat index reached triple digits…something like 110°. Needless to say I was not outdoors.

The following is an excerpt from comments by someone defending about fifty percent of the U.S. population (i.e. potential buyers and readers of books), from the published comments of an author. Given the penchant for hateful posts and responses I’ve seen on the Internet, I choose to keep the combatants anonymous.

“The other nakedly called supporters of POTUS45 bigots, xenophobes, homophobes, misogynists, etc. on Twitter. So I called him out that if that sizable chunk of his reader base is that awful, would be (sic) be magnanimous returning their money for previous book purchases--hashtag, don't bite the hands that feeds you/sh*t where you eat."

cj Sez: I happen to believe authors don’t have to agree with their readers’ (or other authors’) choices, and vise versa. But offending potential buyers/readers with personal diatribes is like cutting off your nose to spite your face (seemed like an apt cliché). Publishing insults is not the way to increase readership. (It’s all about the marketing.)

"…authors MUST be personable, engaging, in tune with their audience(s), and just plain-out decent folks. These people PAY their royalties, and word-of-mouth will make or break an author when writers are their readers, too . . . and word ripples to non-writers about this or that author's sourness. In this age of social media, you cannot afford to be a nekkid jerk. If you're raking it in, okay; if you're not, don't. Just don't in general, but that's just me :-).”

cj Sez: I’ll admit, I have, on occasion, like the angry responder above, felt the need to respond to comments that ticked me off. I’ll write down my outrageous rant on a “mad pad.” (I like pressing the pen down hard onto the paper and leaving imprints on the page behind.) When I’ve gotten the anger out of my system, I put the mad pad aside for a while, then either edit out the anger and post an abbreviated response, or wad up the paper and don’t respond at all.

Have you had a similar encounter of feeling insulted in print--where the published word "seems" to carry more authority? How did you handle it? 

On a happier note, my grandson called this afternoon and invited me to dinner tonight. A spur-of-the-moment invitation that told me he was thinking about me. Now that he’s working, it was his treat. Love that kid.

Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


For great vacation reads, available on Amazon, pick up a copy of:

Deadly Star

Back of the book blurb: "cj petterson has crafted a tale of murder, espionage, and romance which builds to a dramatic and satisfying conclusion. With a gift for well-written dialogue and a deft touch at creating suspense, Ms. petterson delivers a must-read story in Deadly Star."  Rebecca Barrett 

Choosing Carter
Review: "Ms. petterson brings the drama with a cinematic adventure that weaves intrigue, peril and passion in the spectacular Colorado Mountains."--4.5 stars, InD'Tale Magazine

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Sunday, July 15, 2018

“Write what you know” means “write the truth”

Writers are always looking for formulas and rules to make their writing struggles go easier. Eight rules on this, ten tips on that, three on the other. In fact . . . 

   My take on that is, the more I familiarize myself with the different philosophies and “rules” of the various writing worlds (journalism, creative, non-fiction, et al.), the better I am able to write the truth about my characters…their personalities and their worlds. In a way, I am world-building for my novels, even though the characterizations are based on people I’ve met and emotions I’ve felt.

   Granted it's easier to write “what you know”—i.e. the truth—when we write about the people and places we know best. In my Choosing Carter novel, the setting is Dinosaur National Monument and the Yampa River that runs through it. And yes, I once did a five-day white-water rafting trip there. Even with that familiarity, I had to do more research to make sure I had the dialogue and sites correct. (Memories are notoriously faulty.)

   The following excerpt is from regional writer Judy Alter who specializes in her familiarity with Texas.

. . . “setting a book in a particular region (doesn’t) make a writer regional. It’s essential that the author absorb the setting so that rather than obviously telling, such things as geography, culture, food, and manners flow naturally. Otherwise, the background looks like those fake sets in so many grade B westerns.” 

   I’ll take Judy Alter’s advice one step further: Regions are made up of cities, and to write the truth about a city and its characters means the writer also needs to absorb the city setting and its language. That’s why Elmore Leonard’s books are so Detroit-authentic.

   I would never consider myself a regional writer, though not by choice, but by happenstance. Born in Texas and raised in Michigan, I currently live on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. (I guess I could do a decent job of characterizations and syntax of Detroiters.) As a native Texan, I do populate almost every story with a character from Texas, and now that I live in Mobile, Alabama, I people-watch intently. I want my new characters to have some authentic Southern attributes.

   I know a slew of excellent Old-South-regional writers; I also know I’ll never be that good. Writing things Southern is its own genre. There’s a humor and a dialogue cadence that are peculiar (and I mean that in the nicest way) to the South.
Ave of the Oaks, Spring Hill College, Mobile
   Whatever the genre (mystery, suspense, romance) or theme (cats, dogs, yoga, ecology) of the novel, the setting is all-important. How do you incorporate your setting and what you know into what you write?

Passing along information …..

Congratulations to the winners! The 2018 International Thriller Writers (ITW) Thrillerfest Award winners were announced at ThrillerFest XIII, July 14 in New York City, and now you have more books to add to your to-be-read pile:

Best Hardcover Novel
   Riley Sager —Final Girls
Best First Novel
   K.J. Howe —The Freedom Broker
Best Paperback Original Novel
   Christine Bell —Grievance          
Best Short Story
   Zoë  Z. Dean —Charcoal and Cherry  
       (Zoë beat out Lee Child) 
Best Young Adult Novel
   Gregg Hurwitz —The Rains 
Best eBook Original Novel
   Sean Black —Second Chance

Stop by for more information about the International Thriller Writers.
Sandra Seaman's excellent site, “My Little Corner” ( )  lists calls for submission to anthologies and tons of markets.
  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


Judy Alter’s Murder at the Bus Depot, book 4 of her Blue Plate Café Mysteries series can be found on Amazon at   

For great vacation reads, don’t forget to pick up your copy of Deadly Star (
and Choosing Carter ( Available on Amazon. 

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