Story Idea Wheel generates wild stories

Summer break is almost over for my kids. We took a trip to the Doseum last week. This is a hands-on kids’ museum in San Antonio. They have such great areas where kids can build floating contraptions, play with sound and light, do math Olympics and do creative storytelling among other things.

In the creative section where kids can draw, play out a scene with a green screen, dress up as a character or do their own video hero’s journey, there is this huge wheel that creates wild story ideas. It is called Spin A Tale.

It basically is three wheels that you spin and from this you can come up with hundreds of different story ideas.

The outer rim is the main character. Here are some of the ideas.

  • Be an Alien
  • Be a Detective
  • Be a One-Eyed Pirate
  • Be a Deep-Sea Diver
  • Be Ferocious Animal
  • Be a Gnome

The next circle give you your problem/action. Here are a few of the options.

  • Who wakes up
  • Who answers a distress call
  • Who falls under a spell
  • Who wins a vacation
  • Who meets her or his double
  • Who has a pair of magic glasses

And finally the inner wheel give you the setting of the story. Here are a few of the choices.

  • In the deep, dark woods
  • On an alien planet
  • On a deserted island
  • In a windswept desert
  • In the ancient temple
  • In a sunken ship

So you can write a story about an alien who wakes up in a deep, dark woods or maybe about a one-eyed pirate who wins a vacation to a windswept desert. And where you (or your child) go with this writing prompt is totally up to your imagination.

I am not saying you should use this type of wheel to decide on the plot for your next novel. But it is an interesting tool to get your creative juices flowing and could be a way to help you when you are struggling with writer’s block.

For those of you not in San Antonio, there are websites that offer the random plot idea generators but there not as fun as the Spin A Tale wheel.


Wishing my daughter better appreciated the clothes we buy her

School starts next week for my kids. And as always, I take the beginning of August as a time to go through all their clothes to determine what they have outgrown or what they simply no longer like. I often do this also in April as we gear up for the summer. (We are in Texas, and they are already wearing shorts and tees by February or March.)

My kids dread this time as often I make them try on anything that might be too small. I dread this time as I see them discard item after item that they begged me to buy but rarely wore. In fact, I finally had it with Lexie and told her that I was going to stop buying her clothes altogether.

Yes, I went a little overboard. And of course I don’t mean it. But it is tough to see almost brand new outfits discarded. It is one thing if it was worn many times, and she finally outgrew it. But these are items that we bought at the beginning of summer.

And I understand that tastes change. An Inside Out T-shirt may no longer be popular or the fad of wearing Anna and Elsa has fallen to the wayside. Tastes change, and she is growing up.

It isn’t like I have never bought a shirt and then later decided I didn’t like it as well as I thought or the shoes weren’t as comfortable as they were in the store. But the amount of clothes Lexie, in particular, gets rid of is ridiculous.

I have bought her three pairs of shoes to find that she ends up wearing the same pair every day. She begged for the others too, but they don’t get worn. At the beginning of this month, we got rid of 10 pairs of shoes. About four of those wore worn a lot but many of the others – including a pair of sandals she just had to have in June – were barley worn.

She finally parted with most of her dresses in her closet. She rarely wears them. I think she likes the idea of pretty dresses and certainly loves shopping for them. We bought one with her Gramme for our cruise last year, and I know she didn’t wear it on the cruise. Lexie went shopping with her Nana once and came home with several cute dresses that may have been worn only once. They were far too dressy for school, and we hardly dress up to go out to dinner. Some of them would have been appropriate Easter dresses if we attended Easter services.

Now I guess I shouldn’t be too upset since it wasn’t my money that was spent on these items. But it feels like such a waste, and it feels like I am teaching her the wrong thing. I am teaching her that items are so easily disposable. (We donate them to the children’s shelter.) I mean it is great that we can buy her whatever she wants, but I would like her to value it and appreciate it.

Both kids have the tendency to buy things because they want to make someone happy. Nana loved buying her those dresses. Gramme enjoys taking the kids back to school shopping and won’t say no to items like I will. And I love that both sets of grandparents want to help out. I just don’t want the kids to say yes to clothes that they don’t want to wear.

And it isn’t like I don’t ask them when we are purchasing these items. I usually ask two or three times – “Are you sure you like this?” and “You will wear this to school, right?” Last time I went shopping with Lexie I urged her to only buy the outfits she loved. She couldn’t just like them. I started doing this myself years ago. If I don’t love the outfit, it stays at the store. Now to get the kids to do the same thing.

Today’s Featured Author – David Russell

Today author David Russell shares an excerpt from his erotic novella, Self’s Blossom.


Six-thirty p.m. in the lounge – the prearranged rendezvous time if things had been normal. Selene was first to arrive. Would Hudson now feel inclined to turn up? Would he be in any state to turn up? She noticed on her way that his key had not been returned to reception. In fact, he arrived at seven, looking incredibly coy, bashful and apologetic – just like Selene felt. He was carrying a gold lacquered gift box. She gave him a nod and a smile, beckoning him to sit down beside her. They kissed tentatively – reticently.

“Oh Selene, I really am sorry I got carried away like that. It was dreadful of me.”

Selene patted him on the knee. “Darling, I should be apologising for getting all hysterical like that.”

He put the box in front of her. “I went diving, wanted to come to my end in the depths; felt I couldn’t live with myself, but I was obviously called to find something. I guess I realized one of my ambitions.”

He opened the box. In it was an oyster containing a huge pearl. Selene gave him a hug, tearful in her appreciation of his courage.

“I’ve had to reflect an awful lot on my past experiences, you know. I’ve had to study feminism, and I really feel that if both sides – both sexes open up more, accepting more of each other, then life will be so full and enriching. I know that an awful lot happened between us . . .” he hesitated. “And?” A dreamy glow came over Hudson. “We’ve got so close, taken plunges together; you were so magnetic in that costume.” A lump came to his throat.

Selene was now a quiver with suspense. They were at the point of that final something for which she had yearned so desperately for so long. Selene took the words out of his mouth. ” Let’s make everything perfect – the absolute right time, the absolute right place, and in the perfect way. Let’s take the bridal suite together for our last night here!”

The final overt proposition synchronized absolutely with Selene’s memory tensions. A split second before her utterance, she had a vision of being at a ceremonial hair shearing before becoming a nun, and then of a mythical white wedding (the reality of which had never come near her). She thought of the flying buttresses of a cathedral, stained glass tinted in the morning sun, angled to the light of daring love, lifting to heaven. Hudson had at last uttered the key word to the elusive combination of the ideal seduction! This just had to have one fragment of impulse and spontaneity in the context of everything else being utterly premeditated. The peak of experience had been rehearsed to the finest detail. True seduction was total theatre. To hell with all those ‘ideals’ of ‘naturalness’! She had seen through them in that turgid forest. The true ideal lay in laced artifice! Here was the final trigger. Ages ago, they had talked away all thought of marriage and domesticity. But Hudson’s superb artistry in taking hold of the last remnant of conventionality for the final act of defiance against it. The flouting, the inversion of all the oppressive concomitants of a straight wedding night, was genius. They went into a torrid clinch nearly upsetting one of the tables in the process.

“Oh darling,” said Selene in a half-whisper, “you’ve done everything right; let’s go!”

* * * *

The suite was, of course, available, and the deposit no problem for Hudson. The labyrinth of corridors in the hotel did not slow them down. Having located the apartment, they rushed back to their separate rooms for their belongings. Selene was the quickest to pack, but had a little delay with the lift. They arrived at the suite door simultaneously. What a scene of luxury for the denouement.

Selene now took firm control. “OK Hudson, you go and take a bath while I get ready, and get fully dressed again when you’ve finished. I’ve got some special things in store for you!”

Now all of Selene’s fantasies came flooding in to her. Tonight she was the greatest actress, singer, ballerina, priestess-demagogue. She would dazzle the universe in the visual sphere, and then go on to the realm of touch. Her mastery of the lovely art of dressing and undressing would now be shown to the full. In a flash, her clothes were off. As she fitted her cap, she got a tingling premonition of what was to come. When one had meditated on the art of love as deeply as she had, one knew that the extra precautions, far from detracting from the experience, could enhance it, by stretching the partner’s anticipation.

The outfit to replace her casuals was all in order in her expanding suitcase. First, her brief white satin underwear, then a pale blue body stocking, easy to confuse in the half light with a bathing costume, over it her diaphanous slip, then three petticoats – crisp, archaic, Latin and lusciously provocative, sheer white stockings, and then the purple ball gown in all its splendour. She stepped into a pair of white, lacquered high-heels. A touch of eye shadow and lipstick completed a breathtaking work of art. Hudson had seen her in her other gown, in a bikini, and a variety of outer garments. Now he would know all the stages in between, and then beyond, as she would of him. The bath water lapped mutely in the background.

“Ready now, darling.”

The waste pipe gurgled for a few seconds, then Hudson entered. Crisp, white suite approached purple gown, as moon to tropical night sky. They embraced, near-chastely. Then Hudson drew back, a suspicion of anxiety on this face.

“Darling, are you . . .?”

His question needed no verbal answer, for Selene had left her packet of pills conspicuously on the dresser.

“Shall we?” Come on.”

So now for that languorous, full-drawn-out unrobing, decelerating to the depths of frenzy. For a few seconds, they both felt an adolescent shyness – quite naturally, for this was to be an eighteen-year-old’s dream brought to fruition. They tiptoed. For all their obvious freedom, they each had a slight twinge about the hazard of being overheard. Selene’s wardrobe planning had been right; something would have been lost if Hudson had started the encounter in a bathrobe. After Selene’s hips propelled a last, tantalizing, elevated swirl of her gown, the grand undress began.

Knowing their beauty and proud of it, they matched each other’s motions with caresses of sight. Shoes, stockings and socks peeled gracefully off to open the gambit. Hudson’s jacket broadened his shoulders as it left his body. The buckle of his belt harmonised with the front clasp of Selene’s gown as they were both undone, then the zip of his trousers with the back zip of the gown. Hudson’s fine, tapered legs were now revealed. His torso was bared in two stages: shirt and vest thrust back, and pulled over his head without a struggle, revealing gleaming white briefs – or were they bathing trunks? Selene loved those half way garments. She lit up. Great minds had thought alike about foundation garments for this occasion! Hudson had led in one stage of revelation. Selene was transported by his wonderful body control, with ballet assurance – this smooth, eased, arched shedding of reticence. The dream had come to roost. Who rules love, if anybody? The one who strips first, or the one with more finery to shed? But what did rules matter now anyway? The loose gown was ready. Gentle touches on the shoulder straps lowered it, shimmering, to rest. After that departure from simultaneity, action embroidered the first dream. Selene stepped out of the gown, cast it in the corner, and moved towards Hudson, holding him tightly in her beaming, commanding gaze – him with legs astride, deep chest out, briefs gleaming in the light from the open window. At his deft touch, petticoats flowered, rose and fell, floating to make a crest upon the gown. With a ripple of biceps, and lissom forward thrust of legs and hips, the cloudy slip came up head high, and was suspended for a second in the suspicion of a breeze, then, too, wafted to rest. Now they faced each other, almost as if for a first swim. Selene thrust her breasts forward, and tossed her head, making her hair cascade. Hudson took her hips and swung her round. With an almost imperceptible stroke, the zip of the one-piece parted. Hudson swirled her round to face him again, and slid the garment down the front.

“Bikini belle,” said Hudson, with a giggle.

He sensed the precise moment when his briefs were redundant, enhanced his looks no more for her, or for himself. They dropped, with a thrust of thighs and swing of hips. By being deferred, prepared so well, Hudson’s nudity, for Selene, now became suffused with total beauty.

“Undo me,” she half-sang, raising her arms.

Hudson’s unerring hand tended the clip of her bra, which tumbled asunder and fell on the chair. A breeze kissed Selene’s rising breasts as they were bared. Her own hands removed her briefs, finalising her own nakedness. The execution of those actions had been faultless on both sides. “What a fantastic sense of timing!” cried Selene. Each, to the other, became universe god and goddess. After so many times in their pasts when the brakes had been applied, when both had been frozen by reticence, or had their yearnings derided, the soul’s – the universe’s currents now galvanised their bodies. Now words could be uttered in acceptance of total immersion. With their slow speed they generated maelstroms, their every part revealed with deep exuberance, two bodies showing themselves as two complete presences. Now there was a full, tight-clinched embrace – thigh to thigh, torso to breasts, groin to groin. Hudson, a bit taller, took Selene round the shoulder with his right arm; his left beneath her buttocks, as he swung her on to the bed.

“Now for the real backstroke” cried Selene. She pulled Hudson on top of her, thrusting her breasts alternately in his armpits.

Gradually, Hudson hardened, as if with muscle and bone. He entered Selene delicately. When he had penetrated to full depth, he made a clockwise rotation. Fully erected, fully aroused, Selene responded to him anticlockwise. Slowly the two built up, using all their bodies, legs and groins, repeating the motions of their past swims. Bodies were kneaded, relishing their stately, relentless build-up, making love total in its depth, undulating, higher and lower alternately. Then full and strong it reared! There were two sighs, a lunge, slow whirlpools, swimmers’ wakes. Hudson paused, then put all his weight on his torso. Then, recharged by Selene’s breasts, now fully swollen, build up his speed and depth of thrust, had a body-absorbing struggle through some moments of near-exhaustion. Then the knowledge of certainty shone, flooded on them both, hips in friction – dams’ swinging sluicegates, volcanoes’ glows and thunder’s shudders, glands pumping to fire’s, water’s synthesis, all metaphors blown by that endocrine cataract! At the end of the flow, Selene held Hudson in, turning him again on his back. Sleep claimed them, breathless, riding over their peak.

* * * *

Sweating and still clinched, they arose as a maroon dawn unveiled the night skies, lending a mellowed rosiness to their tanned bodies. With restored light, passion revived. Being two, they had to enact their fulfilment’s wholeness twice. Tempered by one satiation’s level, they went smoothly and took their time – finally to outbrim the first flow. After this, the bed could afford no further comfort.

Selene got up. “We need to freshen up a bit.” She took two bathrobes from the wardrobe, pulled one on, jerked Hudson up by the shoulders and draped the other one around him. “Come on.”

The bathroom curtains had not been drawn. Water now gurgled into the capacious bath from both burnished antique brass caps. They held each other, half-draped, until it filled up. Hudson had almost begged Selene not to cover herself, but saw that, as a last delight, that extra robing and unrobing would complete the idyll – cap the euphoria. Selene thrust the robe from his shoulders; it sank down his arms to collapse on the floor. “You may assist me,” said Selene, holding her arms apart. Hudson’s hands ran down her back as he pushed off the robe. Once more they matched each other in nakedness. The bath (designed for a bridal suite after all) was ample for them both, to soap each other over, put legs to hips, massage, and laugh amidst the bubbles. What an element! With seawater they had started; with bath water they ended.

Book Blurb

SB Cover1A romantic, erotic tale of a vivid portrayal of the quest for the inner truth, empowerment and sexual liberation of Selene, a woman searching for primeval abandon and reckless adventure. Intelligent, a university graduate and a successful careerist, Selene became emotionally scarred by
unhappy relationships. Riled and taunted through the years by her former college roommate Janice, Selene gave in to the long-term desire to „get one
back‟ at Janice by having a passionate holiday encounter.

Immediately drawn to the sea and enthralled by its brutal yet sensual waves, Selene seduces a young boy on a deserted beach. Once she comes to
meets the mature and powerful Hudson, Selene finally begins to claim her sensual destiny. Through a slow process, accentuated by Selene‟s
shyness, introspection and circumspection, she embarks on a long and elaborate interplay of leading on and rejection. The volcanic passion
builds until there is a blazing row. A possible drowning, the final ritual undressing at long last, leads to the ultimate flowering of the woman
Selene was meant to be.

About the Author

David Russel was born in 1940 and resides in the UK. He is a writer of poetry, literary criticism, speculative fiction and romance.

  • Main Poetry collection Prickling Counterpoints (1998); poems published in online International Times.
  • Main speculative works High Wired On (2002); Rock Bottom (2005).
  • Translation of Spanish epic La Araucana, Amazon 2013.
  • Romances: Self’s Blossom; Explorations; Further Explorations; Therapy Rapture; Darlene, An Ecstatic Rendezvous (all pub Extasy (Devine Destinies).
  • Self-published collection of erotic poetry and artwork, Sensual Rhapsody, 2015.
  • Singer-songwriter/guitarist. Main CD albums Bacteria Shrapnel and Kaleidoscope Concentrate. Many tracks on You Tube, under ‘Dave Russell’

You can find out more about David on his blog.

Self’s Blossom can be purchased on Amazon UK. You can read additional reviews on Goodreads.

Likeable characters can improve your story

Recently, my husband and I were discussing movies. The gist of the conversation came down to how a likeable character could make a movie better or make a bad movie tolerable. I have been to movies with weak storylines that I have totally enjoyed because I liked or felt a connection to the main character and cared what happened to them.

Readers become immersed in your story through your characters. And it is by far easier for them to connect with the protagonist if it is someone they like. If readers don’t like the main character, they will stop reading. And who could blame them? Who wants to spend hours with someone they don’t like?

Now of course, you and your reader don’t have to like EVERY character. Many of us love to hate a bad guy. In fact, all your characters shouldn’t be totally likeable.

The best way to have a likable character is to make your character real. You need to give them realistic behaviors and character traits.

Here are a few tips for developing likeable characters.

1.) Write about someone with whom you would like to spend time with. Your reader is going to immerse themselves into the life of this character. Would you rather be stuck with someone who is mean and alienates everyone? Most likely not. Neither would your reader so develop a character that you would want to be stuck in an elevator with.

2.)  Develop a clear description or personality for your character. Let the reader visualized them. And for their personality, you don’t have to stick with traditional, likeable traits such as sweet, funny or brave. Your character can be sarcastic or even a trouble maker and still be likeable. Remember as long as there are elements which the reader can empathize or sympathize with they will stick by them until the end of the story.

3.) Give your character challenges. Every character needs a few flaws (or in the case of villains a redeeming quality or two). Readers get bored with a too-perfect character. And no story is complete without some type of conflict. You want to give us someone to cheer for. People are eager to like characters who have the tenacity to overcome problems. We cheer for people who:

  • Never give up
  • Put others first
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Give up something dear to them
  • Stand up for others who are weaker
  • Persist to right a wrong
  • Overcome an obstacle to reach a goal

Writing likeable and realistic characters takes practice. And these characters can make a great storyline even better so it is well worth the time to invest in building and creating that likeable main character.

Vacation planning – Destinations picked for 2016, 2017 and 2018!

For those of you who regularly read my blog – you know I am a planner. I typically have our next vacation planned out 6, 9 or 12 months in advance.

But now I think I have reached the pinnacle of planning. Not only do I have our vacation this year (Disney) scheduled, but I know where we are going in 2017 (Houston) and 2018 (Alaskan cruise). Yep, I am feeling like the ultimate planner right now.

Let me start with our newest vacation plan – a family cruise to Alaska! In August 2015, my family, my parents and brother took a Caribbean cruise (courtesy of my parents). We had three balcony cabins in a row and took family excursions in all of our stops. Everyone had a great time.

I guess the kids got the cruising bug because they were all for going again. When I mentioned there were cruises to Alaska, they both jumped on that idea. So we have been mulling this idea around for a while. Research quickly showed us that these cruises book up early, and they are more expensive than a Caribbean cruise. Part of the additional expense is because we will have to fly to Seattle rather than just drive to Galveston to board our ship.

Alaska – 2018

So while I would love to go to Alaska next summer, it just makes more sense to wait, save money and get the cabins/dates we want. And it didn’t take much convincing to get my parents and my brother to agree to go with us.

At the end of July, we booked our cruise for August 2018. My parents and my family will have connecting balcony cabins while my brother decided to go with a cabin that has a French door that partially opens and offers a view of the lifeboats. The price for this cabin is much cheaper, but at least he has a door that will provide some natural light and a cool breeze if he wants to open it.

Now we need to start saving money for airfare and excursions. I have already shown the kids the activities they can plan at each stop and have an idea of what they might want to do but we probably won’t book any of those until 2017. (Yes, yes, we will be booking early. You can’t say you are surprised.)

Houston – 2017

Now next summer, we are finally going to make it to Houston. After a Disney World trip in 2014, we decided that we would do something more low-key (read cheaper) for summer 2015. That was the plan until my parents offered to pay for the Caribbean Cruise in August 2015. So we pushed back the Houston trip until summer 2016. And then it got bumped when we decided to take a November trip to Disney World.

But now it is set in stone that we are going to Houston for a week next summer. We will visit the zoo, NASA, museums, the boardwalk and maybe even throw in a quick stop at the beach in Galveston.

Disney World – 2016

WDW ChristmasA huge tax return and the desire to go once again during the holiday season is what made us decide to do a Disney World trip in November of this year. Originally, we had talked about going in June 2017 but the last few trips have been in the heat of summer. And I can’t say no to going to Disney World when all the Christmas decorations are up. So we decide to take the kids out of school for a week and go this November.

I think I am most excited because we are renting part of a time share and are staying at the Animal Kingdom lodge. We will have giraffes and zebras right outside our room!

So now that we have the destinations picked for the next three years, it doesn’t mean the planning is over. Part of the fun for me is the planning, and I look forward to many months of research what to do on all these vacations.