They Can’t Say That I DIDN’T Write!

They Can’t Say That I DIDN’T Write!

by Mary Ellen Stepanich

I received a call last week from a gal who lives here in my retirement community. I used to sing with her in an ensemble that entertained annually in our community “Follies,” an amateur talent show I helped initiate 17 years ago. As singers, we weren’t that great, but we had a wonderful time together and were welcome entertainers at local church dinners and nursing homes.

Florence Foster Jenkins promo poster.jpg

When Jean called, she begged me to go with her to see the movie, Florence Foster Jenkins. I had heard from another singer friend that it was a great film. However, I had so many appointments I didn’t see how I could squeeze it in. I called the theater and found one time – 1:20 p.m. on Tuesday – that fit between my morning and late afternoon engagements.

I didn’t know much about the title character, other than what I’d heard from friends about her: that she wasn’t a very good singer. I wasn’t looking forward to spending two or more hours listening to someone sing flat! However, as the music in the closing scenes (finally on key!) filled the theater, I was surprised to realize that I really enjoyed the film. Then it dawned on me that the message of the movie was much more profound than the superficial comedy most of the audience enjoyed.

You see, I had just seen a webinar earlier the same week analyzing the film Die Hard. The speakers were showing how to find the real theme of a movie. As a result, I was watching Florence Foster Jenkins from two perspectives: one as the enjoying observer and one as the story analyzer. What struck me as profound was the main character’s last line in the film: “They might say that I can’t sing – but they can’t say that I DIDN’T sing.” And THAT was the theme or message I derived from the film.

We may not live up to the high standards people might set for certain professions or artistic abilities, but the important thing is that we DO IT ANYWAY. For example, I have always felt that one of my singer friends doesn’t think much of my writing – she seems to look down her nose at what I write. However, I HAVE WRITTEN. And some people even like and enjoy what I write.

Florence Foster Jenkins did what she did for love of the art of singing, for the love of music, and for a deep desire to help the world to share her passion for music. The message seems to be, “Don’t listen to the naysayers. Go ahead and follow your passion with love.”

I feel the same way about the written word as I do about music. Well-written words “sing” to me. I have a passion for putting my thoughts into words. Therefore, I am here to bring to you this message: “They might say that I can’t write, but they can’t say that I didn’t write.”

So friends, keep writing!

Mary Ellen StepanichDr. Mary Ellen Stepanich is a retired professor of organizational behavior who always told her students at Purdue, “I’m very organized, but my behavior is a bit wonky.” She has published articles in academic journals (boring), show scripts for barbershop choruses and quartets (funny), and an award-winning radio play, “Voices from the Front,” for Sun Sounds of Arizona (heartrending). Mary Ellen lives in Peoria, Arizona, with her cat, Cookie, and blogs on her website,

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Subways – A Body Language Festival

Subways – A Body Language Festival

by Barbara Chatzkel

I grew up on the New York City subways. My subway token was a magic ticket to the theater, subway-body-languagethe Guggenheim Museum, Greenwich Village, Times Square, and so many other places. Being able to ride the subway broadened my world view, and not just in the “official” sites I visited. The ride itself gave me a Master’s Degree in Personal Space. Oh, I learned so many things watching the other passengers.

Daily subway commuting taught me to do without a lot of personal space. During rush hour, if you were a “standee” rider, you were not just NEXT to a person but you were probably physically touching at some point. My body language stance for commuting was:

  • Face – neutral facial expression; eyes not focusing on any other passenger; slight smile is fine, but frowns also work.
  • Legs and Feet – maintain a slightly wider stance that normal in order to ensure you did not lose your balance, but keep as small a profile as possible since space is at a premium.
  • Arms – at your side if you are leaning against a wall; holding a strap or pole if you are in the midst of the crowd; no flailing or big arm movements.
  • Torso – strike the delicate balance between taking up space to assert your right to be there and being as invisible as possible so not to get in the midst of disturbances. Before boarding, you made sure you wouldn’t need to access anything (out of a bag, perhaps) that required movement.
  • Hands – become tools to keep you balanced and civil and safe.

If I was lucky to get a seat, then my body language was modified and somewhat more relaxed. But even sitting on a rush hour subway is a crowded experience.

The real art was getting boarding the train from the platform and making sure you stayed on the platform despite the other jostling passengers. I never experienced the Tokyo rush hour subways with the “pushers,” but I know that I needed a strategy every day to get on to the train and then get off at my stop.

What made this a supreme challenge was that New Yorkers “rush” a stopped train. Passengers massed up and down the platform. Getting off was a double challenge – you had to muscle your way out of the car and then get through the determined commuters who were attempting to get on the train you had just exited.

Commuting could be considered a contact body sport.

Fast forward, and I moved to San Francisco. On day one of my new job, I arrived at the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station, bought my ticket, and headed up the escalator to the platform. I got off the escalator, turned to the right side of the platform, and I stopped and stared.


In shock, I joined one of the lines, boarded a train, and rode to work. I knew that this experience was a fluke, probably just an oddity of this station. At the end of the day, I took an escalator down to the platform, and YIKES – the riders were all standing in line again!

Yes, the culture and the body language culture of New York City and San Francisco subway travel was different in significant ways.

The personal space for a BART rider was much larger, and the body language stance was also more relaxed:

  • Face – neutral facial expression; eyes could focus on an individual and then move on; slight smile and nods to other passengers.
  • Legs and Feet – for balance, maintain a slightly wider stance that normal; if a train wasn’t too crowded, you could cross your legs if sitting facing the aisle.
  • Arms – at your side if you are leaning against a wall; holding a strap or pole if you are in the midst of the crowd; no flailing or big arm movements; movement to get things from pockets or briefcases acceptable.
  • Torso – stance is generally relaxed and at ease unless the train is very crowded.
  • Hands – are generally just hands.

When I moved to Washington, D.C. and went to the Metro subway station on my first commute, I wasn’t sure what I would find. Buy the ticket, navigate to the platform, and turn to see LINES OF QUEUEING PASSENGERS!

Metro took the lining up process one step further than the BART. The automated trains stopped at the same place every time, and the space on the platform where the doors opened was painted a different color. So not only did you know to line up, you knew where!

Was the body language of commuters different in these three cities? Not so much. I think the differences were more situational. In Washington, D.C., riding the Metro shortly after 9/11 was a quiet, more humane experience. Body language reflected the emotions and concerns of that time. Riding the BART or Metro to a major sports event was always a jubilant affair. The mood on the ride home depended on the score of the game.

My favorite subway rides were the Metro trips I took to be at the inauguration of three Presidents. Washingtonians love pomp and events in a big way. The joy, wonder, contemplation, explanation, and celebration on those rides are what I think about when I use the word festival.

Next month – the escalators of the Metro and the body language rants.

Barbara Chatzkel’s ability to provide a vibrant and behavior-changing book extends Chatzkelacross industry segments – everyone uses business body language. Her coaching and consulting expertise on business body language grew from conducting union negotiations, managing difficult personnel situations, managing at multiple levels, and extensive business coaching experience. Her new book, Business Body Language: Your Visual Business Card, will be available in print in early 2016. Visit her website today for further information.

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An Extraordinarily Beautiful Memoir

An Extraordinarily Beautiful Memoir

by Jack Dermody

At a Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup, it was enough for me to just glance quickly at Jan Krulick-Belin’s brand new memoir, Love Bill. The cover itself is a work of love-billbeauty. I met Jan a few days later for coffee, where I got to feel the pages, look at the photographs, and become awestruck with the research and careful thought that went into the production of this self-published masterpiece.

Love Bill is a bittersweet story of knowing one’s father only at an early age, losing him, then having to play detective many years later to discover who Dad really was, what his relationship with Mom was, and why his unique character was a great reason for family pride for generations to come.

Jan spared no amount of time or money to create this work of love. Everything you read about successful self-publishing you will find in Love Bill. An artful cover, high-level mainstream editing, the right choice of fonts, and a stellar overall design. She not only used her research skills for the project (as former Education Director at the Phoenix Art Museum), but detailed the work in painstakingly delivered references.

If you have ever researched your ancestors, you know how valuable a memoir like this can be. Most of the time, you are limited to core documents like birth certificates and obituaries. One rarely gets the whole story about their ancestors. Names and dates are boring, but stories are precious gifts.

In my own research for ancestors, I stumbled upon an uncle who turned out to be a novelist of note in the last century, friendly with the likes of Anais Nin. The best news was that his most important novel was simply a thinly disguised autobiography of himself and the family around him at an early age.

Writing a memoir is a special gift to generations perhaps hundreds of years in the future, so I believe we should all consider doing it. Believe me, good documents and good stories are more precious than diamonds. Everybody says they want to write, but few people do. If you are actually writing, then you might want to indulge yourself a glance at Jan’s memoir. With her as a role model, get crackin’ on your own (memoir) writing.

_________________Jack Dermody
Jack Dermody teaches Personality as a Second Language and is a national group facilitator and corporate trainer; textbook author in linguistics and psychology; and author of 
Job Interviewers: Get Inside Their Heads. He is formerly published with Prentice-Hall, ELS Language Services.

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Making Serials Work for You

Making Serials Work for You

by Immortal Angel

When I say I’m an author, most people think I write novel-length books. And surprisingly, there are still a great many people who don’t consider me a “real author” if my books aren’t in print. However, there are many other types of online writing which people have discovered and developed into income streams, such as fan fiction, flash fiction, story blogging, and my personal favorite — serials. So I say if you write weekly content of any sort, you’re an author.

Now, on to serials. What’s the difference between a serial and a novel? Well, a lot of things. A  book format serial is very much like an episode of television; unless you watch the pilot, you aren’t going to be fully introduced to the characters and the plot setup, and the story is always “to be continued” until the end. The pacing is fast, the action furious, and the cliffhangers brutal.

I love serials because the word count doesn’t pile up on me like it does with a novel. I only write three serials ahead of my current week. So, while I can’t decide in the middle that the heroine is going to be a BBW or that I want to go more sci-fi than fantasy, it also removes the burden of making those types of decisions and editing around 100,000 words of text to make changes for continuity. Writing serials is also very organic. I’m writing as things are happening, and there’s only three weeks until it appears in print, so to speak.

With serials, readers are looking for weekly reading with a great story, plot and character development, and a cliffhanger that keeps them thinking about it until they get the next episode. For myself, it takes the pressure off because I’m not trying to write the next award-winning novel and allows me to focus on delivering characters, stories, and exciting action with strong entertainment value.

Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing how my writing partner and I have made serials work for us. I’ll also be offering tips on word building; plot, character and relationship development; and writing effective cliffhangers that make the reader preorder the next three serials before they put down their tablet for the night.

So for now I’ll just say…

To be continued…

 Immortal Angel writes weekly science fiction and fantasy serials which are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and at many other online retailers. Her romances in space are meant to take readers on their own adventures, imagining new and exciting places. With hot men. And maybe a few sexy aliens too. You can follow her on Twitter at @immortal__angel (two underscores) and online at

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If you want happiness, you must seek it

If you want happiness, you must seek it

by Marilou McIntyre

Seeking happiness is a major step toward achieving it and gaining control of your life. Like love, happiness is abstract, but real in one’s life. Each person must determine what creates happiness in their own life. Think happy, do things that make you happy to tantalize and stimulate the brain’s “happy center.” Though the process works, it is fleeting, at best, and you must nurture this spot continuously. Think and do pleasant things. Surround yourself with happy, kind people. Perhaps food, a good movie, or an exciting love life makes you happy.


It often seems some people are happiest when embroiled in conflict or engaged in power struggles – otherwise, they would not continue such behavior. This is the other side of the duality within each person. Who is to say which is best? Perhaps if the mean-spirited people were to direct their energies toward malignant cells or other diseases, they could destroy them. We would hail them as heroes if they healed cancer.

To maintain positive attitudes and growth, it is important to learn the effect of right thinking and right action that is helpful to self or others. Awareness of your environment and the people with whom you associate and their effect on you is important. Be sure your surroundings, friends, and associates are positive. Once a person recognizes that certain behavior causes them to fear or become ill, they must overcome it through conscious change. Find people that enhance you and help you stay positive.

Be guided into a more youthful, healthier and happier life. You can do this by healing imperfections in your mind, body, and spirit. Good thoughts and actions create health in the body, just as bad ones create disease or suffering. “You might get fragile, but you won’t break if you keep yourself polished inside and out.”

Reincarnation may explain unusual behaviors and personality traits we cannot adequately account for or understand via the fields of psychology and psychiatry. Beyond that, it may even explain some puzzling biological and medical phenomena. Thoroughly examining the concept of reincarnation may also help us understand presently unsolved problems in the fields of therapy and medicine. Consciously adjust your attitude. “Take another look at this possibility.”

The world can be a real utopia. At the very least, if everybody would strive to accomplish the same thing by beginning within, the world would become a better place. Be focused upon the perfection of the present day. The only thing you really have to do is believe in yourself and your potential.

Marilou Macintyre Dr. Marilou McIntyre is an author, past life connector, and fear buster. She helps those suffering from irrational fears to mend the past so they can overcome their fears and live happy, healthy, successful lives. Her books, Fast Road to Happiness: Journey into Now, Life is Forever – Get Used to It, and The Forever Principles: Listening to an Angel Voice in My Head, assist you on the spiritual path and provide road maps to enjoy and control your life forever. To schedule a past life exploration go to her website:

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Expressing Emotion in Writing

Expressing Emotion in Writing

by Patrick Hodges

As an author, it’s normal to look at our past works and wonder, “OMG, what was I thinking?” Obviously, rookie mistakes are normal when you’re a fledgling writer, but whether you are writing your first book or your tenth, I have some advice that may help you.

If a story doesn’t touch us on at least a basic emotional level, we tend to find ourselves becoming bored. And it’s not always easy for a character to display emotion in a way that will cause a reader to understand it.


What do I mean? Well, let’s say you’re writing a particularly scary scene. One would expect the characters to show signs of fear, right? If the author simply writes, “She suddenly felt scared,” does that get the message across? Sure it does, but does it really connect? Do you feel her fear? Probably not.

I recently purchased a book called The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca emotional-thesaurusPuglisi, and let me tell you, it is a veritable fount of information. It offers examples of nearly every way a person might display emotions such as anxiety, depression, doubt, relief, impatience, love, worry, or, yes, abject terror.

Returning to my previous example: let’s say your character has found herself locked in a haunted house with a dead body, and she is surrounded by all kinds of weird creaking, clanking noises. Obviously, you’d expect her to be scared out of her mind. But how would you relay that to your readers?

Here is a short list of attributes associated with terror, both interior and exterior:

  • Full body tremors
  • Squeezing eyes shut
  • Trembling lips
  • Flaring nostrils
  • Clutching one’s throat
  • Racing pulse
  • Weak legs
  • Dizziness, seeing black spots

The book also includes mental responses such as hyper-vigilance, sensitivity to noise, etc. It literally explores every avenue an emotion can take. It even includes writers’ tips at the end of each section.

I cannot express in words just how much this has helped me in my writing. If you could see me, I’d be expressing the signs of gratitude: glowing eyes, open palms, blowing a kiss… well, you get the point.


Patrick Hodges lives in Arizona with his wife of 15 years,
Patrick HodgesVaneza. After doing weekly columns for entertainment-related websites, he has turned his attention to writing fiction. He is passionate about sending positive messages to young people. Patrick has authored three books: Joshuas Island, Ethan’s Secret, and Sophie’s Different. You may reach him at or “like” him on Facebook.

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The Fiction Is Sometimes Worse Than the Fiction

The Fiction Is Sometimes Worse Than the Fiction

by Christine Burke

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. For me, I think that many times the fiction is worse than the fiction, and by that I am referring to the movie version of a great novel. What do you do when the character is totally out of character? Has this happened to you?

One of the first times it hit me was with The Pelican Brief. The book was turned into a movie, and I was so excited to see it on the big screen. Then, “Whoosh!” The air went out of my balloon, and I just could not replicate the synergy of the two characters, played in the movie by Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. While they were great in the book and in my imagination, they were horrible on screen.


Next, this happened with Katherine Heigl’s portrayal of Stephanie Plum, Janet Evanovich’s bounty hunter. Another disappointment. I have followed Evanovich’s series since the beginning and I had my characters all mapped out. I came to anticipate their attitudes, their looks, and their dialogue, and then, “Wham!” Was I thrown off-guard watching the movie version. While I actually like Ms. Heigl, I did not enjoy her in this role. And now, I have just seen the movie trailer for the next Jack Reacher novel. Please, do you really picture Tom Cruise instead of, say, John Cena? Doesn’t make sense.


For a writer, and a reader, the beauty is in the written word, best leaving ample character development in your hands and up to your imagination. In my opinion, a properly developed character will have just enough details to guide your imagery and imagination without stifling you or boring you with too many specifics. When done properly, it makes sitting down with a book just like donning a comfortable sweater or sinking into a comfy couch and the anticipation of having time to enjoy such treats.


I vote for fiction, and my version of someone’s fiction at that. I guess the only alternative is to not see the movie if I have already read the book or not reading the book if I have seen the movie. I want my characters to be who I want them to be, regardless of how the author or the director sees them. That’s MY truth and I’m sticking to it!

Christine BurkeChristine Burke combines her personality and experience in her consulting, educational, and entrepreneurial endeavors. She is the owner of OMG! Outsourced Marketing Guru, StrategicIntelligenceServices PLLC, and Her focus is providing marketing resources and education to business owners and professionals in the legal, senior and startup spaces. Christine’s books are available on Amazon and

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