Debora Dale


So… as many of you know… I’m a writer. Within the writing world, I’m what’s known as a “pantser”, meaning, I’m not big on plotting out an entire story before I write it. I’ve tried it that way and have lost all the excitment of putting fresh words and ideas onto the page.

There was one method I truly enjoyed, though, and that was the storyboard. I’d taken an online workshop with Shelley Bradley and it was amazing. You can be an avid plotter or a simple pantser and still use her method. What it does is organize your thoughts. As they come to you, you jot them down in as much or as little detail as you want (on a post-it) then slap them onto the storyboard in the spot you think they will fit. Of course, there is more to it than that, but after a while, it seems that easy. It’s also fun to see the post-it’s pile up. They’re color-coded, too, so that makes it a super visual tool.

Here’s one of my completed storyboards – ain’t it purdy? 🙂


Another exciting method I learned, use and highly recommend, is the W-Plot. What an amazing tool. Karen Docter gives that workshop, and I can’t say enough about it. Basically what it does is help outline (don’t shudder at that word, it’s not really an “outline” but more like a “highlight” of…) your plot using only nine major plot points for each main character. It’s much easier than I’m probably making it sound, and it is so very worth it.

A finished W might look intimidating at first (even second and third) glance… BUT… I can’t stress enough how simple it truly is. Of course, it forces you to think, but the panster in me stuck around for the entire process without one fainting spell. Truth!

Now, prepare yourself…

Here’s what a finished W looks like with all the plot points (36 total – 9 for the Hero, 9 for the Heroine, 9 for the Villain and 9 for the romance) highlighted in a different color.

Completed W-Plot

See how each plot point in it’s proper place makes the story flow?

If you have the opportunity to take either or both of these classes, I HIGHLY recommend them. Of course, I’m a workshop junkie, so there are many more workshops I can tell you about. Until then… check these out and tell me what you think.

What about workshops you’ve taken? Which ones do you have safely tucked into your writer’s toolbox?

Raccoons in the Roof – update

Well this sucks. A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned we have a family of raccoons living in our attic crawl space. We’re in a row of attached homes, and this family has taken over each house’s crawl space. We called someone who said he would trap them, relocate them, then seal up the vents so nothing/no one could get back inside.

That’s not exactly what he intended to do.

We live in an area where rabies is high. It is illegal to relocate these animals. Instead, the trapper would use traps that kill.

I am an animal lover to my core and cannot reconcile with this. I’ve called… I don’t know how many different people… hoping SOMEONE would offer another option. My thought was, they could simply ‘evict’ this family somehow, then seal up every possible entry. Unfortunately, the experts tell me the raccoons will tear apart the roof if they really want to get back in.

Part of me wants to give them until the spring – after their babies are born and are old enough to get out on their own – and seal the holes then. But, how do we know they’ll leave at that time? We don’t. Simple.

Only one person said he can trap them without killing them. He said, his traps would hold them until all of them are out and the vents are sealed, and then he’d release them near the tracks (where we know they came from). Problem is, he said it’s a bloody mess because they will fight until they either free themselves or die.

I’m sorry this is such a downer, but I’m really in a bad spot now and have no idea what to do. Some of the neighbors involved are fine with the traps that kill, others are as distraught as I am. How can you kill an entire family of raccoons on the off-chance they have rabies? Someone said to drop mothballs into the vents. Apparently raccoons don’t like the smell of them (who does?) and might leave on their own. Thing is… how will we know they’re all out? Yuck. Messy and difficult situation.

I’ll keep you posted.



We went to the NY Botanical Gardens yesterday. That and the Bronx Zoo are familiar and favored haunts of ours. Though they’re across the street from one another, we never go to both in one day. No, the beauty of going to one of those places is getting away from everything else for an entire day. Either is a magical escape and yesterday was no different.

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Yes. Those are orchids. Our getaway yesterday involved the NY Botanical Garden’s Orchid Show. It’s hard to imagine how varried one type of flower can be. The colors are glorious, the frangrace is… odd. They have an almost… musky smell. A sexy heady scent that’s warm and thick. One whiff is enticing. Rooms full… well… that takes getting used to.

Still, I would go back again and again because they are simply that stunning. Here… let me show you some more…

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Some of them looked fake. Like paper…


Or plastic…


All of them were magnificent.


Of course, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. While I cringed at some of these because, to me, they looked more like insects than flowers, other people were in awe of their beauty and grace. You decide…

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Shhh… listen… what’s that noise?

It’s about 9pm and I’m watching American Idol with my 12 year old. The commercials are so loud, we mute the volume when they come on. And that’s when we heard it. The pitter-patter of tiny feet.  There haven’t been tiny feet in my house since I adopted my cats almost a year ago.

I held my breath. Listened…

Sure ‘nuf, there they were. Scratchy little spine-tingling sounds. Over head. In the attic crawl-space. Mice? But with mice, you can’t hear the crunch of each step, like someone walking on the roof. Hmm. What could be so large it would make the sound of adult footsteps and yet be so small that it could fit through a tiny vent in the roof that leads into the crawl-space?

I live in a row of attached houses (in the city, mind you) and I called a neighbor. Yes, indeedy, she’s heard the same crunchy-scratchy sounds and has no doubt that it’s a raccoon. A raccoon? How could a raccoon get into the attic? Unless there’s a hole in each of our roofs, how could they get in? But, what else could it be?

I told DH that I believed it could indeed be a raccoon. He gave me THAT look. You know the look. It’s the same look Archie used to give Edith. It’s the look that says, “HUH?!”

He ‘patiently’ explains there’s no room for a raccoon in the crawl space. There isn’t an opening large enough for one to get in, but only a 4×6 inch grated vent. Besides, IF they were up in the crawl-space, they’d have to balance on beams or risk falling through the ceiling.

I didn’t care about the specifics, I just wanted them gone. “I don’t know how they’re up there, but they are.”

He nodded in that way.

“Seriously,” I said. “You have to do something about it.”

He all but patted me on the head. “Yes, dear.”

Two nights ago, around midnight, we hear screeching, chirping and thumping outside my daughter’s window. There’s a steel porch off her bedroom and the sound of a physical fight of some sort was boinging through the chilly night silence. I rush to her room and pull up the shade. Right there, not 18 inches away, are two raccoons tumbling and clawing at each other, making these horrible squeals as they flip each other head over heels onto the metal porch. I opened the window and shouted through the screen, “Get! Off! My! Porch!”

They stopped fighting with each other and, in a show of unity, froze in place, their fists tight in each other’s fur, and stared me down. I closed the window slowly. Locked it, drew the shade and backed away. After calming Daughter and telling her, no, there was no reason for her to come sleep in my room, I heard another odd sound from outside. I peek and lo and behold… those little masked bandits were climbing up my drain pipe and onto the roof! Seconds later, there it was, that scratching and heavy footstep above my head – they’d gotten into my attic again! There had to be a hole in the roof, there had to be!

In the morning, hubby went onto the roof to find the hole and found that the grates over the tiny vents on all of our attached roofs were bent upward. He pushed them all down and back into place. Well… yesterday evening, he went back up and guess what? All the grates were bent up yet again. These furry buggers have been squeezing themselves through those small openings and setting up house among the insulation and crossbeams!

“So…” I said, “We have raccoons in the crawl space… don’t we.”

He wouldn’t look me in the eye. “Yes, dear.”

Not only did he have to acknowlege it to me, but he had to convince all the neighbors that this is indeed what’s been happening. It seems everyone in our row – about 10 families – have heard the noises at some point over the past few weeks. I guess no one could believe animals that large could get through openings that small. They’re all believers now.

Someone is coming this week to trap them before they have their kits. Yes… they’re pregnant. It’s mating season and their kits will be born in less than two months. These are the mama’s and they’re looking for safe, warm dens where they can have and keep their young. They’ll be trapped and relocated to a large, local park and then the vents on our roofs will be bolted into place.

Future squatters will have to find another place to live.

Great Shelter News!

What an excellent week last week was for our shelter cats! We had three new adoptions! 😀 The best part is that of the three adoptions, two were of adult cats. ::sigh:: That makes me teary. Is so rare for the older cats to find homes. Like babies in an orphanage, kittens are more likely to be adopted and older cats are likely to spend their lives without a loving home.

This week, however, one very vocal adult male was adopted. He’d been adopted two years ago, but the adoptive parents felt he was too noisy and they brought him back. He was with us again for about four months, and I was worried he’d never have another chance. Well! A couple came in during the week, fell in love with him and his voice and took him home. I’m tearing up now… but from happiness for him.

The kitten was a tiny one. Only about two months old. He’ll be happy in his new home and has not yet developed the bad habits that sometimes get these little ones returned to us… like talking too much.

And finally, the greatest news is that Charlie has been adopted, too. Well… fostered. It’s a trial arrangement. If he and the foster parents are compatible, they’ll make it permanent. Charlie is a lover. Handsome, charming, and just a tad distant. On his terms, you can pet and cuddle him. On his terms, you’ll be sorry for doing so. Think, Mr. Darcy.

In case you’re wondering… Yes. The Charlie I’m speaking of is the same Charlie in the photo from my Whiskers on Kittens post. Isn’t he handsome?

Whiskers on kittens…

A few of our charming shelter cats
Clockwise from top left – Minnie and Ginger, Ava, Charlie, Max

For a few hours a week, my daughter and I volunteer at an animal shelter. It’s not funded by large donors and no one works there for pay. Although, as an animal lover, I’d have to say the pay is in the kisses and full body rubs these kitties often give. Of course, a couple of our shelter cats would sooner dice you like a cross shredder than rub against or kiss you, but they’ve had difficult lives, so we… give them their space.

There are so many different personalities among cats. Getting to know them all is like getting to know a whole group of people. They have different desires and different needs. In the end, however, they all just want the basics – security and love. Teddy is one of the tougher cats. Don’t pet Teddy. Don’t talk to Teddy. Come to think of it… don’t even LOOK at Teddy. 🙂 Actually, he’s just a big boy who wants to be left alone. Then there’s his polar opposite – Twister. He’s a big boy, too. Solid and heavy. But he’s got the squeakiest meow you’ll ever hear. His big size makes him appear intimidating, but manly Twister wants only to be held like a baby, with his paws resting on your shoulders, his head nestled into your neck, and your arms supporting his furry little butt.

I could go on and on about our beautiful shelter cats, and I probably will one day. But for today, I’ll let them speak for themselves… (check your volume, some videos have music)



If you’re interested, and how could you not be… 😉 …here’s a link to more short videos of these precious babies (including Twister!)…

More Videos!

When I first started volunteering there, I thought it would be sad. All those big, bright eyes looking into mine, hoping for a home. But you know what? They’re content. They play, eat, sleep and are safely indoors. The only thing they’re missing is a warm human to snuggle up to in the wee hours of the night and to nudge awake just before dawn. They each need a home of their own, but we give them all we can while they’re in the place they, temporarily, call home.

Check out more of these beauties…

Bios and pictures!

Don’t forget to click the ‘back’ button so you can return to me and tell me what you think… and which cat or kitten you’d like to adopt! 🙂

Jazzy Joe at the Blue Note

One of the perks of being a homeschooling family is the ability to enjoy a late night out without the worry of an early morning alarm ringing out. We took advantage of that the other night.

For the first time in several years, we went to the Blue Note. In case you’re unfamiliar with the place, the Blue Note is a historical New York jazz club. Many of the greats have performed there, and the other night was no different.

We saw Joe Sample and the Crusaders. What a fantastic performance. Everyone was bopping in their seat – the music was that engaging. And so was Mr. Sample. Funny man.

Now you have to picture the venue – intimate (read that – small) and dark. Low ceiling, painted black. Fabric walls with V’d mirror strips. Tiny cobalt votives on each table, and family style seating. The only thing missing from this jazz club that I associate with jazz clubs was the smoky atmosphere. Though I’m not complaining. The family-style seating can be a little rough because the seats and tables are so close together that you become oddly familiar with strangers rather quickly. :-/

It’s okay though, because everyone is there for the music, and the stage is within stretching distance.

Joe started talking about music ‘in the day’ and how he’d hit the scene at an early age. I believe he said he was only 22 when he made his first recording – in 1961. Soon after that, he was a well-known entity and the ladies all but threw themselves at his feet. He started talking about the ladies, how much he enjoyed them and the attention they bestowed on him. The mention of it seemed to sidetrack him. He became quiet and had this wistful expression on his face. Dreamy, like he’d let his mind travel back in time. It was an odd moment, because everyone was so into what he was saying, that they also had dreamy, wistful expressions on their faces. I’m sure I did, too. It was as if he’d taken us all back in time. I felt it. I felt free and light as if at that time, everything was bliss. I suppose that’s what happens when the mind sifts reality into memories.

After lulling us into the moment with him, he drew in a quick breath, shook off some apparently exciting memories and said, in this husky soulful tone, “Ah, if only I was young again…”

“Calm down, Joe!”

Those words came from someone in the audience. You couldn’t help but laugh. And then this sexy symphony began and once again, the crowd was completely engrossed. He’d drawn us all into a dream with just a few words and kept us there with his music.

Homeschool and School Holidays

Tomorrow is President’s Day and public schools will be closed for the entire week. As a new-ish homeschooling family, we’re in a peculiar place. Do we continue our lessons, since they’re simply an extension of our day? Or do we put it all on hold until the public school classes are back in session?Interestingly, people seem surprised when we take off for public school holidays. I often wonder if we’re thought of as inferior since trained and licensed teachers are not involved in our lessons. Perhaps the thought is that we need every day there is to cover the subjects other children cover for 6 hours each school day plus another few hours for homework.

I suppose, before we started homeschooling, I felt that way, too. Fortunately, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how little time is truly necessary to cover the subjects in a way that is engaging and thorough. When you strip away the busywork so often supplied by schools, you find the time to enjoy life. Children have time to be… children. Families have family time. And the children are still learning. In fact, they’re learning through real life experiences, not solely through textbooks, worksheets and dioramas.

The best decision we could have made for our family was to take our daughter out of public school and begin homeschooling her. The tough part was dealing with the worry over whether our method would be right. The wonderful part was realizing there’s no wrong way to do it.

Homeschooling is an extension of home-life. We’re learning every minute of every day. Sometimes it’s in a structured way, sometimes it’s not. The greatest joy of homeschooling is the option to play outside when it starts to snow, to take our bikes to the park when the sun warms the day, or to watch a scary movie when it’s stormy outside. Most of all, it’s the wonder of watching new awareness bloom on our child’s face because of something she learned while in our presence.

When public schools are closed for a holiday, our child might not sit with a workbook and pen, but she will still be learning. She’ll still be living the life a child should live, and we’ll all be enjoying the process.

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