Monday, July 17, 2017

Short Stories & Such 34: Marketplace

Back in April 2015, I attended the MT. SAC Science Fiction Workshop led by Scott Noon Creley (see 
Creley had us write a science fiction setting for our world (good or bad). He wanted us to show and not tell using the 5 senses. In other words, he wanted the author to give a tour of the setting to the reader.
The following is my attempt. I only had one paragraph, but you can actually get an idea for a new story.


They came on the surfboards of the air, ear-splitting, and four-feet long crafts. They watched with glass eyes the people lined up against the red brick walls. Red from blood-stained entertainment.

Merchants wore their pointy hats- yellow and orange like the dry sky. Bellies full of food, they wobbled under their robes.

The foul smell of dust mixed with sweat permeated the narrow road, but they watched with glass eyes and metal hearts. Money purses dangled from their cold hands.

Dirt blew on the people’s faces. The bustling clinging of chains rattled behind them. Each of us holding a loved ones’ hands, teetering teeth and knees.

“Sold!” came the verdict.

“Dispose!” came the command.

“Turn around!” came another.

Those with metal hearts obeyed and pushed or clubbed or…

Our hands held tightly while the merchants passed us. The sweat from the outside rays were visible, and their flushed faces meant the day was done.

For some, it was a beginning. For others, it was a blessing. For those willing to live, it was utter agony ripping through our flesh-stricken hearts. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Quote 26

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
Martin Buber

During my wait at the vet’s office, I realized the longing some dogs have based on their eyes. Some want to play and run and meet everyone. Others, are too scared to be curious and may become aggressive. You can tell by looking at their eyes. The nervousness or the joy.
When the office staff called me up to make a payment, I left my dog with my sister. When I turned to walk back, I saw my dog’s eyes. They never left me, and as I got closer, those same honey eyes changed to a brighter hue- glad I was back, and expecting new scents, and wanting my attention (or reassurance). And this quote is true for any animal, especially those in need.

Since we’re on the topic of noticing animal’s eyes, here are a few places you may donate to or volunteer for:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Independence Day Week

A lot of you have already gone on vacation and are enjoying yourself, others are preparing to celebrate July 4th this Tuesday. Hopefully, everyone has a safe event with family, pets, and friends. Speaking of pets, it’s important to keep them in a safe location when the fireworks go up and children should be supervised at all times. The following are some tips found on, a pet sitting/dog boarding/dog walking online venue with lots of information for owners. Of course, the safest (and sanest) way to celebrate would be without any fireworks. It’s good for the environment, good for your pets, and good for you (no after the day clean-up).

p.s. you can also check out the links from @m_a_Arana on twitter

Also, I know this post is early, but I won’t be able to post it on Monday. Enjoy!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Writer’s Workshop 24: Poetry’s Important Motion

Here’s another post on my experience in the MT. SAC Writer’s Weekend, April 28, 2017. This time, the Poetry Workshop was led by wonderful Nikia Chaney. She works at the Inlandia Institute in Southern California and her website is

Chaney’s workshop included some information about poetry and a few prompts, to which she provided guidance and feedback on the work presented. She spoke of the importance of indirect meaning, sound, and imagery in poetry.
Indirect meaning is where poetry says a lot with minimal space and where poetry has metaphor, simile, and/or allusion.
Sound involves repetition (of a word, phrase, or beat), alliteration, assonance, and
rhythm (soft). The repetition should not ‘hit us over the head,’ but repeat enough times that the reader expects it.
Imagery involves sensory language.

Chaney also mentioned that there is no wrong way to start a prompt and to always try new things with poetry. “If you think you’re doing something wrong with it, it must be right. That’s your creativity. Enjoy the writing and have fun with it.”

For the first prompt, Chaney had us listen to Lucille Clifton’s “Cutting Greens,” which you can read AND listen to at
Then, she asked us to write about something mundane that connects with life; a boring task like brushing teeth. Write what you do and replace some words with images and ideas similar to what Clifton did. Add details without censoring yourself.

The second prompt, she had us listen to Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Anodyne,” which you can read AND listen to at

Then, she asked us to write one line you can repeat but break up in different ways four times within your poem. To do this, you need to change the line a little, but still let us recognize it for the rhythm (like music). For example, “I want everything” can be added throughout your poem in different ways such as “You can give me” or “I want everything” and “everything you can” or “give me” and “I want you” and each one is on a different stanza.

Try writing some poems and see what you come up with... very interesting stuff =)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Books I’m Reading 32

Cure Back Pain: 80 Personalized Easy Exercises for Spinal Training to Improve Posture, Eliminate Tension & Reduce Stress by Jean-François Harvey, BSc, DO. There’s a self-assessment and many exercise routines targeting the various muscles that help prevent back pain.

The Dogist: Photographic Encounters with 1,000 Dogs by Elias Weiss Friedman. This is a great compilation of different dog breeds that would put a smile on any dog enthusiast.

The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, adapted by Peter David as a graphic novel titled The Lady of the Shadows for Marvel. This story looks back at Odetta’s childhood and her multiple personality disorder before she lost her legs and got taken to Mid-World in search of the Dark Tower with the Gunslinger.

97 Ways to Make a Cat Like You by Carol Kaufmann. This pocket-sized book is filled with facts and tips about taking care of your cat.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pet News 25: Time for Puppy Pays off

This is the time of year for babies and puppies, and everything about growing.
Here, I’ll be focusing on puppies and providing a few basic tips I've used on all my dogs.

Puppies need a lot of attention and monitoring. Scheduling play, feeding, relieving, and training. It’s good to brush up on First Aid for pets. Also, read more about the breed you selected to be part of your family. Of course, researching a breed should be done prior to bringing them home. Too often, guardians select a mismatched breed and when puppies reach their ninth month, it’s harder to find a home, unless they’re in a no-kill shelter (which should be something we strive toward having, but I digress…)

Play is important in a puppy’s social upbringing. Not only does it encourage good behavior, it allows them to trust their new family. After being removed from their mother’s care, a puppy needs to know they are cared for and loved. Playing with them helps reassure teamwork, leadership, and fun. They also come to rely on you to feed them. In the beginning, puppies get fed about four times a day. Small portions to allow for bowel movements. This way, you can teach the puppy where to relieve themselves about ten to twenty minutes after feeding. Note that after a long play session. puppies should relieve themselves, too.

The basics for training your puppy are Sit, Stay, Watch, and Come. These are the ones I used when I got my puppy (who was already six months old, yikes!). You can always add other commands as your puppy matures or learns the basic ones.

With treat in hand, ask the puppy to sit without saying command. Lure their nose up, and their behind usually comes to a sit. Praise and give treat. If not, gently tap the rear. Do this multiple times. Then, add the word Sit, wait, praise, treat. Repeat until you no longer need the treat.

To get the puppy to Stay, ask puppy to Sit, then to Watch you. When you see they are watching you, praise and treat. Repeat. Then, say Stay and back up one step. If your puppy stays, move forward, praise and treat. Repeat until you can take multiple steps back. Then, repeat until you no longer need treat.

To get the puppy to Come, have the puppy Sit, Stay, and back away. Call puppy to you and praise when they reach you. Provide a treat. You can tether the puppy so as not to allow them to run away or to ensure they stay within the perimeters of the training session. You can add distance as the puppy gets better at coming. You can also do it sitting down. Later, you can add distractions, like give the puppy a ball, then call them to you.

Training sessions should be short and quick at first. Once the puppy gets better, trainings could be longer as their attention has gotten better.

Remember: Praise and Treat and Play afterwards. Also, pet slowly and softly, below chin, shoulders, chest. Practice touching paws for nail trimming and massage teeth, gums for brushing in future. Good luck!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Art 19: Sitting Pensive

The pose above was one I drew when I attended some Life Drawing workshops in 2011 (I know, quite a long time ago).
The model posed for ten minutes and I focused on the neck, jaw and shoulder area of the model. The trick I found that worked was to angle the lines to guide me where each body part would go, then, freely draw the body. Once that was down, which is like a skeleton, you start focusing on the areas to darken to build on the lines drawn.

Ten minutes wasn’t enough time to continue the rest of the body, but you could always finish the drawing from memory at a later time. I had been practicing drawing for a couple of days by now, and you could tell it paid off in this drawing. I liked the way it came out and would rather see it incomplete. I hope you do, too =)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope everyone has found their weekend running smoothly, relaxing, and commemorative.
If you are visiting family or friends, or another trip, please drive safe and patiently. Also, make sure your pets can’t escape during the fireworks by checking gates, crates, and homes. Please supervise children. Many tend to get hurt during this time.
The best thing would be to not to throw fireworks (but that’s a humble opinion). The neighborhood would be safe, there will be less pollution and clean-up for the next day, and your pets will still love you. We can entertain ourselves in other ways that are enjoyable and fun and not hurtful. Just something to keep in mind.
Oh! And if you do throw fireworks, please don’t exaggerate and keep the whole neighborhood up until 6 a.m. or be one of those who keep throwing them for the rest of the month. Thanks.

If you’re looking for some fun stuff to read, check out the POPULAR POSTS on the right side of the site or FOLLOW ME on twitter @m_a_Arana

Monday, May 22, 2017

Writer’s Workshop 23: Poetry Confessions without the Truth

   Tim Hatch conducted a Poetry Workshop on confessional writing during the MT. SAC Writer’s Weekend in April 2017.
   Hatch had us think about our early in life or recent memories, sacred or not, without having to give every detail to tell the memory. It’s more about the emotion. The more meaningful the memory, the better.
   Then, the prompt continued with a series of questions he would ask, such as:
are you alone in this memory?
what are you wearing?
are you holding anything?
where are you?
what are you doing?
   Hatch mentions that poetry is about getting a response from the audience and not to be attached to the truth because stories can change to service the poem. In other words, a memory poem is like a creative writing piece where you add fictional elements to portray the emotion and subject.
   One way he suggests to clear your mind if you come to a difficult subject is to take a walk outside. It doesn’t have to be a park as long as you are walking. This works well when you have a hard time getting the images down or before you revise the piece you’re working on.
   Another way Hatch suggests to revise is to ask questions like ‘if you could go back to this memory, what would you say to yourself/person in the memory?’
   Sometimes revisions aren’t what we expect.
   After this, you can write for ten or fifteen minutes. Go ahead and try it based on the few questions I have. You can add more questions regarding the five senses.
   At first, I didn’t have a clue as to what to write, but as he asked the questions, I was able to bring out the memory of walking to the bus stop as a child.

   The last suggestion Hatch shared was to write in complete darkness for 20 minutes in order to extract a memory. However, he cautions that this is an intensely emotional exercise and not to have any sharp objects nearby =) I’ve tried this only once and found myself with dream-like poems, but you never know what you’ll get until you try.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Quote 25

“A good rider can hear his horse speak to him. A great rider can hear his horse whisper.”
-Author Unknown

When I read this quote, I thought of the different ways you communicate without speaking by using gestures in place of words and eye contact or facial expressions others could read. It also, reminded me of how you can learn from your pet’s behavior what they are saying. You can learn to differentiate the barks your dog make and the tail position cats make when they are upset. Then, I went further and applied it to writing.

The ‘horse’ is the muse- the creative part of your brain -to which we let loose to write poetry and stories. Sometimes, we force this creativity (‘hear the horse speak’), but if you let it drive your writing, you end up with less description, less details, less spontaneity, and more clichés.

If you stop playing editing cop on every turn, you would find ideas flowing and write things you may have never thought of (‘hear the horse whisper’). You would tap into that subconscious part of the brain where the weird isn’t so weird after all, the creativity is boundless, and new angles to retold stories are found.

Let’s give room to this type of ‘riding’ and enjoy the view.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Short Stories & Such 33: Running with a Ghost

The following short story was written with the intention of following the prompt to the letter, but as any writer would tell you: not gonna happen. The good thing is, I managed to write a story, tried my best to keep it in his perspective, and in present tense (I hope).

The Writer’s Digest prompt from Brian A. Klems’s “Writer’s Dig” March 21, 2016 post follows here:
You start training to run a marathon. Things are going well and you’ve developed a route that you like to run. One day you notice someone peeking out the window of one of the houses you pass, though you think nothing of it. But then the next day the peeper is back again. And the next day. Finally, you decide to confront the peeper and knock on the door. But when the door opens, you are shocked to find out it’s someone from your past—who you thought was dead.

Here's my attempt:

Running with a Ghost

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
Those words rang in my head for the past half hour. How I got talked into running a marathon is beyond me. Dealing with architecture is more like it. Getting the right obtuse angles on designs no one has thought about gets my adrenaline going.
Though, things are going well. The route I mapped out has worked out and my stamina has gone up. Too bad I can’t say the same for the bedroom.
One more mile and its shower time. Probably the best motivator since I got that new showerhead installed.
Oh, boy. There’s that peeper again. Can women be peepers? Yesterday she was there, peeking out the window of the yellow colored house like she was searching for something. I thought nothing of it, but today, she’s gawking directly at me. So, I decide to run on the opposite side of the street and head home. Only, I couldn’t get her big eyes out of my head.
Jogging in place for the light to change, I wipe my brow and crank my neck. Shivers travel down my spine and I turn to the yellow house. The brown blinds were still open and her figure there.
Call me crazy. Call me stupid. But confronting this peeper will set my mind at ease. At least, that’s what my father used to say. It could be nothing after all.
Ignoring the light change, I keep my jog and head toward the peeper’s house. Once I turn into her driveway, which has cracks and weeds growing out of it, she closes the blinds. Hmm, maybe not the sociable type.
Using my shirt to wipe my face, I take a deep breath, and knock on the green door that may help ease the sight from all the yellow.
While I wait, I do a hamstring stretch and glance at the spider webs lined up along the four plant pots on the floor. I knock again. This time, she opens.
“Hi,” I began. The minute I saw her face, mine froze. Actually, all my body froze like I had just seen a ghost. One that should have stayed buried.
She held the door open with both hands, leaning against the frame, fluttering her heavy mascara eyelashes.
Those big blue eyes. She was supposed to be… dead.
“Hi,” she said with a smile too familiar.
She nods and giggles. Then, she leans out, turns her head from left to right.
Her hair is semi-brushed and her dress straps loose on her shoulders. She stops, looks up at me, and grabs onto my shirt, drawing me in with a strength like a dinosaur. Okay. Maybe a bear, but she held me until she pushed me down on the coffee stain brown sofa. The dark earth colors are starting to creep me out.
“Hey!” I manage to say after I clear the dust blowing out of the sofa cushions.
“You miss me?” She flirts with her hair, pulling it to her left side and tilting her head. “Say you miss me.”
“I should finish my run, Sera.” This whole scenario was a rerun of our past. I couldn’t go through that again. Not with the way she left things, and then, dying…
She took hold of my chin and spread her legs to sit on top of my thighs.
“I have to hand it to you, Beni. I get why your jerk friends tried to, but you?” She made a strange clicking sound with her tongue. It coils like a spring and I blink several times. She moves my face to the side and smells my neck.
I took hold of her hand and moved it away from my chin. “Look, let’s not do this, okay?”
“Do what?” She flutters those big eyes again. Then, bounces on top of me.
“I said, stop.” I pull her arm down. “I didn’t know what they were up to.”
“Yes you did.” She slaps me with her free hand.
Boy, did she hit hard. freight train hard. My cheek pulses like a recently gouged eye. Okay. Maybe just a cut.
“You thought yourself better and left me to rot.” She maneuvers her knee to my groin.
My heart beat like if I was high on something as I look down at what she intends to do to my privates. Shaking, I stutter, “Apparently, you didn’t rot.”
She slaps me again. This time, my lip splits open and out came the blood.
She cocks her head sideways, unblinking, and drooling from her mouth.
I look away and quickly wipe the blood.
She licks her lips and pushes her knee slightly into my groin. “Those so called friends threw dirt on me. Did you know? Huh?” She pushes further in. “Did you know?”
“No.” I caught her knee. “Geez, Sera. I didn’t know. I thought you crawled out… until I heard the report.”
“Well,” she said with distaste, “you’re the last one.”

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why I Write 13: Creativity’s Pull

There are many reasons we choose to write as there are topics to write about. Once you get the writing bug, though, you can’t seem to want to stop. You find ways to write, whether it be ten minutes a day or three hours.

There are stories inside me wanting to be shared, so I recently attended the Mt. SAC Writer’s Weekend in which various poetry, fiction, and art workshops were offered. I wrote until I had creative overload.

It was a wonderful experience and some prompts were challenging. Sometimes, I meandered from the prompt, but I was reassured that as long as I was tapping my creative side, it was good writing.

All writing is good. Getting things down on the page is the first step. Your editing self can stay back until you complete what you started- a short story, article, novel, poem… Fix it later. Research some more after. It will all come together.

Periodically, I will post some of the notes or prompts shared that day and my attempts with them.

Here’s some reasons I continue to write, my poem “Stop to Think” got published on vox poetica April 2017 section of ‘today’s words’ ( Check it out =)

Also, my poem “It Was as if You Cast a Spell Over Me” was published in the Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology 2017 and can be viewed on the preview! It’s also a great collection, so don’t hesitate to support fellow poets.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Writing Endeavors 13: A Writer’s Cycle

The recent fantasy novel about a reluctant prince is coming along well. So far, my writing group has positive things to say about it.

Still editing/revising a thriller about a woman stuck on an island. Hoping to send in queries by Summer.

The previous novel I queried didn’t get accepted yet, but I think I’ll set it aside and revisit it (and the letter) later. Maybe it still needs some fixing.

As for poetry, I submitted to various sites. I’ll let you know if any are accepted.

Focusing on the Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides’ prompts. (Happy Poetry Month, by the way!)

Heading to the Annual Mt. SAC Writer’s Weekend for some more workshops.

And that’s what it’s all about. Write. Read. Write. Re-write. Revise. Edit. Write. Repeat… 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Books I’m Reading 32

New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 by Jay Parini. This collection moves one’s soul. He writes about the mining country to farms to the human experience. Very well written poems.

Clarity by Kim Harrington is a young adult novel about a teenager named Clare who finds herself aiding the police in solving a murder case by using her psyche abilities. Good read. Published by Point, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. (2011)

The Dirt on Pigpen by Charles M. Schulz is a compilation of comic strips with the character Pigpen from the Charlie Brown collections. If you’ve never heard of this character or you weren’t paying much attention to him, his the one that goes around being a magnet to dust.

The Fibro Manual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor by Ginevra Liptan, M.D. Doctor Liptan provides examples of this

Monday, April 10, 2017

Writer’s Workshop 22: Practice Monologue

During a 2014 Mt. SAC fiction workshop, Michelle Dowd provided two prompts that build on the previous one. The key was to have a monologue with yourself. That means to talk to yourself. You could be reminding yourself about something, or figuring out how to do something. Either way, don’t hesitate to play with the prompt and if you just can’t think of something, then, write what comes to mind.

Here’s the first prompt:
Write from the perspective of a character using first person. Let the voice come through and have them talk to self in monologue about their problem.

Here’s my attempt:
My fist. My fist went through the wall.
Why do I do this? Why do I hurt myself when I get angry?
I just want to have them understand. Want them to hear me say the things I need.
My hand throbs. Rub my knuckles. Rub my knuckles.
There’s a hole in the wall. No one must know.
Where’s the bumper sticker I put away?
Cover it up, idiot!
Stop slapping yourself. Stop it! Stop it!
Cover it up so no one knows about the hole in the wall.
Forget it.
It’s covered.
No one will be the wiser.

Here’s the second prompt:
Now, make your character have a scapegoat they blame for their problem, but still talking back to self.

My sister’s to blame.
She just talks and talks and lets things slip out.
She had no right to tell everyone about my need to keep things in order.
She doesn’t understand the need to keep it a secret.
The TV remote goes above the TV.
Make sure it’s placed there every time.
Or else?
Or else the consequences will be severe.

Take some time to try the prompts. you never know, it might springboard another idea.

three of my poems in "Nasty women's Almanac: Poetry Edition- Feminine Voices for a Brighter Day." You can purchase a copy at

Monday, April 3, 2017

Time for April Awareness Month

April is a lot of things for people and it’s also home to various Awareness events, such as Health. I have listed a few and some websites so you can find out more about each:

Autism Awareness Month

certain Cancer Awareness Month 

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Alcohol Awareness Month

Monday, March 27, 2017

Pet News 24: Leash Training and Decreasing Jumping

I’m always on the lookout for sage advice when it comes to training and caring for pets. Sometimes, one idea will work well with one pet, and another might not. I can easily train my male dog tricks, but my female dog is stubborn. It’s not because she’s a senior, it’s part of her personality. Since a puppy, she has been that way. Perseverance and patience has made her the number one guard dog. So, don’t give up. It all pays off in the end.

The book I came in contact with was Miriam Fields-Babineau’s Training your Puppy in 5 minutes: A quick, easy and humane approach (2005). The author made many suggestions and gave examples, but I’m only going to focus on two.

The first is taking your dog on a leash:
use a treat to lure pup/dog beside you
            give treat only after say “sit” then, move on
            do this a few times

The second is what the author calls “the jumping bean syndrome”:
            redirect pup/dog in positive means by stepping away
immediately lure pup/dog to sit
            reward pup/dog by giving attention (but don’t ignore pup/dog when sit or will start jumping again for attention)
            Note: when jumping on someone else-
redirect with a noise ex. put 15 pennies in a box, shake, and growl “No”
            when pup/dog stops, lure to sit, and praise

Redirection is the key to lure pup/dog to a positive behavior and to focus on you.
Find what entices pup/dog and use that as a treat such as a toy, food, stick, etc.
You want to teach pup/dog that good things come from you.
Good luck!
I know I’m going to need it when I try it with my dog to stop him from jumping. Yikes!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Art 13: Lines and Sketching

This was a five-minute warm-up sketch for a life drawing workshop.
I began a focus on the torso and moved to the thigh, which explains the lack of a real head =}
This piece showed movement and varied use of line. The proportion of the body wasn’t bad.
The legs, arms, and head were lacking in perspective, but I didn’t expect much in five minutes.
Actually, if I can’t be happy for the achievement on what came out well on the drawing, who would?

So, always look at the positive side of things and practice. Life just gets a little better =)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Books I’m Reading 30

Pogue’s Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (that no one bothers to tell you) for Simplifying the Technology in your Life by David Pogue. This is a book that does exactly what the title suggests.

Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes and Monsters by Donna Jo Napoli. The art and the myths provide a glimpse into the lives of these deities.

Sentenced to Life by Clive James. This poetry collection takes you on a journey through memories. Very nice.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Gaiman teams up with Riddell again for another graphic story. This time, he interweaves the Sleeping Beauty and Snow White themes and makes it his own with a shocking ending.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Teaching Moments 8: Earth Day every day

Recently, I watched a documentary titled A Plastic Ocean: We Need a Wave of Change from Brainstorm Media 2016.
This DVD was available through the library and it deals with how our trash is ending up at the bottom of the ocean.
Researchers traveled around the globe to see how plastic is affecting our environment and to find evidence of the litter.  
Think about how a dirty street looks like filled with plastic bottles, Styrofoam cups, nets, bags, clothes, food, etc. all littered on the sidewalk. Not a pretty sight. True, cities are trying hard to maintain a clean environment, but there still are individuals who litter. The other day I caught a woman crossing the street and tossing her banana peel on the sidewalk. Most mornings, take out paper bags near my home are dumped across the street.
It all drains to the ocean and becomes harmful for life. Not only does it affect animal’s lives, it affects our health. The documentary provides solutions some countries are implementing to curb the plastic pollution and covers the importance of recycling.
This topic is important for children to understand. However, I do caution that this documentary goes deep into the issue and some images may be too graphic for children below fifth grade. A teacher should watch the documentary first and select the parts to share. The most important parts are that our oceans ARE being polluted and that there ARE some solutions already being implemented, such as using tote bags when grocery shopping and the use of diesel fuel.

more info @