As a writer, I try to increase and diversify my vocabulary. I own several dictionaries and one massive thesaurus (The Synonym Finder: JI Rodale). These books, of course, are extremely helpful, and I couldn’t live without them, but there are times when I wish I was familiar with the more obscure words of the English language.

I subscribe to a couple of newsletters that email me a word every week: A Word A Day, and Dictionary.com. The problem is, I’ll read the email with its definition, etymology, and usage, and then promptly forget the word altogether. I need something that will help it stick in my brain, so that when I reach for that perfect word, I can find it.

So I thought I might offer a weekly word here on the blog that may not be too familiar and try to use it in a sentence or two, to help cement it in my brain. Readers are encouraged to come up with their own examples and share it here.

I came across this word on Dictionary.com and thought it interesting:

Tenebrific: adjective; producing darkness.

Here are my sentences:

  1. The tenebrific oil slick crept across the bay like an evil sea creature.
  2. The UFO cast its tenebrific shadow across the city, poised to strike.
  3. The eclipse mesmerized us with tenebrific eeriness.

I could also use these as writing prompts, as first lines.

What amazing sentences can you come up with?



Angels of Destruction

Angels of Destruction

My sister and I both loved The Stolen Child, by Keith Donohue, so when it came time to select a new book for our book club, we thought we’d try another of his novels, Angels of Destruction.

When Margaret Quinn’s 17-year-old daughter, Erica, runs away with her radical boyfriend to join the cultish revolutionary group Angels of Destruction, her life becomes one of emptiness and longing. So when a little girl named Norah shows up on her doorstep ten years later, she eagerly takes her in to fill the void left by her daughter. Willing to overlook the girl’s mysterious origins, Margaret passes her off as her granddaughter, and enrolls her in the local school. There, Norah befriends Sean Fallon, a boy whose father abandoned him and his mother some time ago. At the same time, a strange shadow man shows up after her arrival, asking questions about the child of everyone in the town who knows Margaret.

Interwoven with this narrative is the flashback story of Erica and her boyfriend, Wiley, on their journey from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, where they plan to meet up with the Angels and change the world. Unfortunately, things break down from the very beginning, as Wiley, hopped up on youthful zeal and radicalism, steals several cars and waves a gun around while robbing stores. Along the way, Erica starts to doubt Wiley and his crazy beliefs, and discovers she’s pregnant.

The two timelines slowly unfold as our questions build: who is Norah? Is she Erica’s daughter, or an answer to Margaret’s prayers in the form of an angel? Who is the shadow man? What happened to Erica and why doesn’t she come home?

These questions and Donohue’s descriptive prose kept me involved in the book, but I felt the story went on for far too long. It didn’t engage me as much as The Stolen Child, but the characterization and setting are solid. Maybe its complex themes of faith and doubt, sin and redemption, and the bonds between parent and child need a little more time to digest.

If you’re not comfortable with ambiguity and want all your questions answered, this book isn’t for you. If you love to contemplate the mysteries of heaven and earth (and in your heart of hearts, want to believe in angels), then you might want to give this one a try.


There Be Dragons

Just a head’s up: I’ve uploaded another short story to Amazon, called Shiny Pretty Things.

Ruby is a thirteen-year-old girl who is different from her peers: she has scales on her skin, which she tries to hide. After a horrible accident at school, she’s visited by a man named Uriah Jones, who holds the key to her true nature, one that puts her very life in danger.

I’d wanted to write a dragon story for a long time, and this is what I came up with. I liked it so much, I went on to write an entire novel, continuing the story of Ruby and Uriah. It’s called The Last Dragon, and it’s still a hot mess of a rough draft, but I love it. I used Shiny Pretty Things as Chapter One. Perhaps someday it will be polished up and offered on Amazon as well.

If you’d like to read it, as well as two other of my short stories, go here.


Lilly’s List

I’m a mom to a seven year old girl, so I’ve put my time in reading many, many (many) children’s books. In my view, that makes me an authority, so I thought I’d list a few our favorites so far. This list doesn’t include piles of licensed character books like Little Critter, The Berenstain Bears, Max and Ruby, and such. Though we love them, I wanted to highlight a few original, charming stories that have captured our hearts.

The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt.


We loved this story about a box of crayons who each write a letter to their owner, a little boy named Duncan, and who list their grievances. Red is overworked, black feels underused, and yellow and orange are fighting about who is the real color of the sun. Lilly is especially tickled by peach, who is NAKED because Duncan peeled the wrapper off him, and he’s embarrassed to come out of the crayon box. She got the next in the series, The Day the Crayons Came Home, for Christmas, and that’s wonderful, too.


Otis, by Loren Long.


We just fell in love with the little tractor Otis, and his adventures on the farm. After he gets replaced by a new shiny yellow tractor, Otis is inconsolably sad, but when his friend the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond, Otis knows just what to do. There’s several in the series, and Lilly especially likes Otis and the Tornado. We have Otis and the Puppy from the library right now. He’s putt-puff-puttedy-chuffed his way into our hearts.



Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathman.

Gloria book

Every year, Officer Buckle gives his Safety Speech at the local schools, and every year, all the kids fall asleep. That is, until he gets a new police dog, Gloria, who accompanies him and, behind his back, does crazy tricks to illustrate each rule. The crowds go wild, but what happens when Officer Buckle finds out about Gloria’s shenanigans? Lilly loves to go through all of the rules listed behind each cover: Never Stand on a Swivel Chair, Don’t Eat Raw Hamburger, Never Play in the Microwave, and other fun and practical admonishments.

Swimmy, by Leo Lionni

Swimmy book

Swimmy is a little black fish who loses all his friends to a big, hungry tuna. Despite this, he can still see all the beauty in his underwater world, and eventually makes new friends. He teaches them how to defend themselves against the predators of the sea. Lilly likes this book, but I think I love it more, mostly for the wonderful artwork. I definitely need to buy more Leo Lionni books.

There’s so many more I could list here, and maybe in the future I will. In the meantime, we’ll have fun exploring and reading the fantastic books out there for children.





Kitchen Nightmares

I’m often surprised at my 7-year old daughter’s favorite TV shows. She still likes the cartoons, but has supplemented those with teen shows on Nickelodeon (yikes!) and The Dukes of Hazzard on CMT (What the?). Lately it’s cooking shows like Cake Wars, Cupcake Wars, and most especially, Kids Baking Championship on the Food Network.

chocolate-mini-cupcakes-749498_1280 (1)

I think she likes the whimsical designs of Cake Wars (towering Dr. Seuss cakes!), and who doesn’t like cake’s diminutive cousins? With the Kids Baking Championship, I think she loves seeing kids not much older than she is owning the kitchen and whipping up amazing creations. Innocent and obvious reasons, but the neurotic mom in me wonders if it’s because I’m a bad mother. Let me explain.

I’m no baker; I’m not even a competent cook. The domestic arts have never been on the top of my list, and as a result I can’t sew a button or bake a pie to save my life. There’s never been much of a grand cooking tradition in my family. Oh, my mother cooked. And cooked and cooked. It was more utilitarian in nature than artful. She had a big family to feed, and not much money to do it with it. She still hates cooking. And I’ll never eat cubed steak again in my life.

The point is, I’m wondering if my pathetic cooking life is detrimental to my child. My fears are admittedly irrational: Will she grow up unable to feed herself? Will she be malnourished? I try to console myself by remembering how picky an eater she is. If it’s not a grilled cheese sandwich, chicken nuggets, pizza or Kraft mac & cheese, she won’t eat it. I exaggerate, but only a little. I try to supplement with lots of fruit, yogurt and multivitamins. My husband is a pretty decent cook (the poor guy has to be if he wants to eat), and makes up for my deficits.

I guess I just feel guilty by not being “that” kind of mom, mostly because I exchange cooking time for writing time. Her childhood memories will not be of us in the kitchen with flour on our faces, our hands deep in dough, the scrumptious smell of cookies or cake or pie filling the house.

What I can offer her are other memories: of reading books together, swimming at the lake in summer, whispering secrets under the sheets. There’s enough mommy guilt in the world; I don’t need to add to it. And there’s always Food Network.

To be fair to myself, we do make goodies with her Easy Bake Oven sometimes (a gift from her aunt Cindy, who’s a great cook). This is what it looks like:

Isn’t it pretty? And Lilly’s favorite color.

Predictably, I screwed up the first batch. But we persevered, and went on to baking success! There’s hope for me yet.

The Picture Problem

I’m not vain, but I don’t consider myself a bad-looking person. Unfortunately, I’m not very photogenic, and any pictures taken of me are grievously disappointing. This is tough when an author photo is needed, for bios or profile pictures for social media accounts. I used to use a picture of my daughter for Facebook (as so many parents do), and some lovely fantasy figure for my other accounts. Here it is:

Okay, this isn’t me.

However, I kept reading or hearing about how a real picture of oneself is so important in social media. It not only brings in more followers (says the theory), but it’s just common courtesy and more professional to show yourself. As a writer who wants to be taken seriously, I gave in.

The problem is, I don’t have many digital photos of myself that I particularly like. And the digital camera we bought when Lilly was born (7 years ago) just bit the dust. I’m probably one of six people in the world who doesn’t have a smartphone. I did, however, get my daughter a tablet for Christmas, which can take pictures. Lilly took this one of me:

Any last requests, Ms. Williams?

This is what I’m using for my social media photo. Whenever I pose for a picture, it feels contrived and silly, and it inevitably comes out horrible, especially when I try to smile. So I don’t smile too much. Like this one. I look like I’m waiting to be shot.

Before this, I asked my sister to take a picture of me when we were at our book club at her house. Naturally we got giggly, but I managed to rein it in. Here’s the best out of several:

Funny, that’s not what I see in the mirror.

This is slightly better than the other in some ways, but I decided I look too old, despite taking the glasses off. And my face is melting, for some reason. And any number of other nitpicks and misgivings. Oh, for the days when youth made up for bad photography!

Remember Glamor Shots? That photography service where they treated you like a cover model and did your make-up, hair and clothing. My mom dragged me to one of those studios when I was 25. I hated being photographed even then, and went grudgingly. But now, I’m glad I went. I wish I knew how to get one of those photos on here, to prove that a decent picture can be taken of me. Trust me, I was stunning. And 25. So I suppose it would be misleading to use a photo like that. Can’t I be the lovely star woman?

Maybe I am vain for worrying about such a thing. Or just silly. In the age of selfies, it seems quaint. Oh well. I’ll always break out in hives when the cameras come out.

Tooting My Horn


I am now a published author.

Well, I am now a self-published author. I recently uploaded two of my short stories to Amazon, with the intention of uploading more. These stories have made their rounds on submission, and have been rejected for one reason or another. I don’t think it’s because they’re bad stories, as stories go. They just haven’t been able to find a good home. So off to Amazon they go, with more to follow, I think.

Now it’s just a matter of promoting, which, by its very essence, is unnatural for me. I’m not one to toot my own horn. But in this milieu it’s a must; no one’s going to do it for me. I’ve read The Shy Writer by C. Hope Clark cover to cover, multiple times, but it’s still hard for me to put myself out there, to speak up, to sell myself. This blog was a huge first step, and I’ve managed to live through it. I even enjoy it, immensely. So I might as well put it to work.

The first story I uploaded is called Plugged In, a futuristic story about a world where computer implantation is mandatory. I got this idea when I was contemplating how attached so many people are to their technology–their phones are always in their hand, or not very far away. It infiltrates every part of their lives, a constant stream of info and entertainment at their fingertips. Why not just have it implanted into their brains, I thought, and be done with it? Most people wouldn’t mind. But what if it was the law, and someone did mind? About this time, we were hearing a lot about Snowden and Wikileaks, the line between privacy and security, so I wound that theme in, too. It was fun to write.

The other story is called Hera’s Milk, and it’s a ghost story. It’s about a woman writer of a certain age, full of regret and despair, and decides she wants to end her life. She stops at a bed and breakfast to do the deed, but garners the attention of a ghost child, whose intention is a bit of a mystery. When I was writing this one, I was thinking about the choices we make, about motherhood and aging and unfulfilled lives. It’s borderline horror, because of an ick factor at the end, but nothing too gratuitous.

So if you’re interested, head on over to amazon.com/author/williamstina. They cost less than a buck…or free if you have Kindle Unlimited. If you like it, rate and review it. I’d much appreciate it.