Category Archives: Articles

Guest Post: Private Lives

Guest Post: Private Lives

Many thanks to Donna for this guest post, which first appeared on her blog (one of my favorites!), My OBT.


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Good Sources for Free Images for Your Blog

Good Sources for Free Images for Your Blog

The right illustrations can make your blog more attractive and inviting. Readers are more likely to stay awhile if they’re not faced with unbroken print.

If you have a digital camera or a smart phone, you can take your own pictures. You are your best source of free images, because (unless you’re taking a photograph of a person without their permission, or of something that discloses proprietary information) you aren’t infringing on someone else’s rights.

But sometimes you just can’t snap the picture you need. Maybe, for a particular post, you need a tropical scene, or an aerial view. Maybe you need snowy mountains, but you live in the desert. Lots of photo services will sell you what you need, but if, like me, you blog for love, not money, you need to keep your expenses low. (Like, $0.00.)


Found on StockSnap.

Here are the best sources I’ve found for free images (totally free to use, no attribution necessary):

  • Unsplash. High-quality, high-resolution photographs. You can sign up to periodically receive pictures in your email. Unsplash also has a search feature.
  • Death to Stock. I subscribe to their free email service, and download all the freebies I think I may actually use. To have access to their entire library (1500+ and growing), you have to sign up for their premium plan, $180 per year.
  • StockSnap. If I’m looking for a particular subject, I often look through this searchable database first.
  • Pixabay. Sometimes you envision a tall, skinny picture to border a list. Pixabay has an orientation filter on their search engine that will select vertical shots for you, and leave out the horizontal ones (or vice versa).
  • Ivorymix. These are fashionable, stylized shots. You can sign up to get a free packet every month by email. I find their site difficult to search. Here’s their infomercial:
  • FancyCrave. I just discovered this site. I signed up to receive 14 free photos each week by email.

If you can’t find what you need among those sources, try these:

  • Wikipedia. Search for the subject you want a photo of, like Winston Churchill, unicorns, etc. Virtually all the photographs on Wikipedia are either in the public domain, or usable under a Creative Commons license. Click on the image you like, and click on the More details Scroll down, and you can read whether the picture is public domain, if you’re allowed to alter it in any way, or if you need to attribute the photographer or artist, and any other requirements.
  • Bing. When you hunt for images on Bing, I strongly recommend you click the Filter button, and under the License option, choose either Public domain or All Creative Commons. Even so, the picture might be still copyrighted, so only use it if you are sure you’re not infringing on someone’s possible rights.
Man holding camera DeathtoStock

From Death to Stock.

What do you do for illustrations for your blog? Do you like a source not listed here? Please share in the comments below.

The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

The Day Milo Went AWOL . . . by Andrea R Huelsenbeck

An oldy, but a goody. Un-smiley face graphic by Kaz Vorpal.

Doing Life Together

California King Snake California King Snake

As I was readying to leave for work one day fifteen years ago, my daughter Erin, then fifteen years old and the last of our children to leave for school in the morning, breathlessly announced, “There’s a snake in my pants!”

Now, in some homes, a statement like that might be alarming. However, in our house, it was pretty typical.

Firstly, my kids tended to keep their clothes on the floor. Secondly, although we live in Arizona, we are surrounded on all sides by the greater Phoenix metropolitan area—unlikely a wild reptile wriggled in from the desert. It would probably be one of our resident serpents.

You see, my husband, Greg, an elementary school teacher, collected critters.

So my very logical response to Erin was “Who is it?”

“One of the black and white ones.”

Boy, was I ticked. I had recently flown to New Jersey to…

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Guest Post: Word Counts by Sheila M. Good

Guest Post: Word Counts by Sheila M. Good

Did you ever wonder how your work-in-progress compares to others in your genre in terms of word count? Many thanks to Sheila M. Good of Cow Pasture Chronicles for this week’s guest post.


Day 23:#AtoZChallenge  

WORD COUNTSOne of the most frequent questions asked by writers is : “What is an acceptable word count for  _________” (fill in the blank). Most magazines, contests, or websites will define the type of fiction they’re looking for and the required word count or word limit. In my research, I found a number of sites with slightly different word counts, but all were generally within these limits.

Basic fiction classification and the associated word counts:

  1. Flash Fiction – under 500 but some accept up to 1000.
  2. Historical Fiction – 90,000-100,000.
  3. Literary –  80,000-120,000.
  4. Memoir – 80,000 – 90,000.
  5. Middle Grade Fiction – 25,000 -40,000.
  6. Mystery, Thrillers & Crime – 70,000 -90,000.
  7. Novella – 10,000 – 40,000.
  8. Novelette – 7,550 – 17,500.
  9. Picture Books – standard 32 pages (500-600 words).
  10. Romance Fiction– 50,000 – 100,000.
  11. Science fiction & Fantasy – 90,000 -120,000.
  12. Short Story – typically between…

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A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

A Poem and a Blogging Prompt

I recently wrote this poem as an exercise for a book I’m reading and working through, poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. The assignment was to think of a time when an irreversible change took place in your life. I chose to list them:


Life shifters

New friendrandom-art-supplies
Car purchase
Job loss
Job change
Debt repaid

Here’s my challenge to you: Consider the events in your life that made you change your direction, or select one from the list above. Express your experience and thoughts in the medium of your choosing, whether poem or prose, photography, drawing, painting, zentangle, music, or whatever. Post it on your blog, and add your link in the comments below.

Guest Post: Classroom visits one of the best parts of the job by Julie Stroebel Barichello

Guest Post: Classroom visits one of the best parts of the job by Julie Stroebel Barichello

A great big ARHtistic License thank you to Julie Stroebel Barichello for this wonderful article about the joys of author visits to schools.

Julie Stroebel Barichello | Author

The job title for writers is a bit misleading.

You’d think the majority of the job would be writing, but it’s a pretty even split between writing and promotion. After I finished writing my first book, I dreaded the promotion side of things. Not only was I uncertain where to begin, but I also wasn’t looking forward to the social side of being an author. I was perfectly happy to stick to the keyboard.

Then I started doing classroom visits. Suddenly the social side of writing wasn’t so bad.

Classroom visits are great for children’s authors on multiple levels. For one thing, it puts us face to face with our audience and gives us valuable insights. We get to see firsthand what makes kids laugh, what they’re interested in, and what they’re looking for in books.

Last week I made two visits to McKinley Elementary School in Ottawa. I had…

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Why You Should Be Reading Helping Writers Become Authors

Why You Should Be Reading Helping Writers Become Authors

K.M. Weiland is a talented and prolific novelist and also the author of several excellent books on the craft of writing. (Check my Books Read page for reviews of two of her books, #7 and #22 under 2016.) Her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is one I recommend all writers follow. She often offers some of her ebooks free to subscribers.


Some features of the website:

  • Story Structure Database. Look up your favorite books and see Weiland’s analysis, including the inciting event, plot points, pinch points, climax, and resolution.
  • Series of articles, including How to Structure Your Story, How to Structure Scenes, How to Write Character Arcs, Most Common Writing Mistakes, and Writing Inspiration.
  • Weekly Podcasts, accessible through the website and on iTunes.
  • An email newsletter.
  • Infographics like this one, that you can save to your Pinterest writing
  • Her recommendations for writing books by other authors.
  • Professional resources for writers.

Weiland regularly adds content on how to write compelling scenes and how to make your fiction sparkle. Here are some of my favorite articles from Helping Writers Become Authors:

Helping Writers Become Authors consistently appears on Writer’s Digest’s and The Write Life’s Best Blogs for Writers lists (and probably on virtually every other one).

How about you—do you follow Helping Writers Become Authors? Have you read any of Wieland’s books? Do you have a favorite writing website? Share in the comments below.

How to Write Funny

How to Write Funny

One of my goals for 2016 was to put humor into my writing. (Still working on that.) I asked my critique group if anyone knew a book on writing humor, and my friend Betty offered to lend me her copy of How to Write Funny, edited by John B. Kachuba.

Sticky notes and tabs stuck out of Betty’s book, passages on many pages were either underlined or highlighted, and the margins held scribbled notes. I began reading with a notebook and pen close by. After I’d read two pages, I already had a page of notes. I knew then I needed my own copy.

funnyToday, my book is heavily annotated, adorned with different colored stickies, and whole sections are starred for further review and reference.

How to Write Funny is a collection of twelve essays by different authors, some of whom I’m familiar with, and others I’d never heard of. Also included are fifteen interviews and a roundtable panel. Jennifer Crusie also contributed a comedy “workshop,” complete with exercises I’m planning to try.

To give you an idea of the scope of the book, here are some random quotes I underlined in my copy:

  • “The comic point of view is essentially that of the stranger or alien.” (David Bouchier)
  • “…people laugh at two things: surprise and misfortune.” (J. Kevin Wolfe)
  • “Exaggerating the literal truth, if it’s done well, shows us the emotional truth of a situation.” (Connie Willis)
  • “Humor observes, analyzes and comments on the human condition.” (Esther M. Friesner)
  • “…the day I walked the entire length of the English Department at Ohio State University with my skirt caught in my panty hose, wearing no underwear. And nobody I passed said a word.” (Jennifer Crusie)
  • “…column humor comes in only five forms: 1. The anecdote 2. The one-line joke 3. Overstatement 4. Understatement 5. Ironic truth” (Mel Helitzer)
  • “At its best, humor evokes humane laughter at the universality of worldly frailities.” (Patricia Case)
  • “You can probably skewer a politician or personal injury lawyer with abandon, but you should be gentle when mocking the common man.” (Dinty Moore)
  • “…imagine what’s in the cupboard of a serial killer.” (Lee K. Abbott)
  • “Jokes are poetry…a joke is always succinct.” (Sherman Alexie)
  • “…real humor has to come from the same place your passion, your fear and your obsessions come from: your parents.” (Tom Bodett)
  • “…people laugh when they have the shock of recognizing the familiar under an unexpected light.” (Andrei Codrescu)
  • “For me, humor can fail if it’s ‘mean,’ if [it] is vengeful or sexist or defensive.” (Denise Duhamel)

The authors of the segments mentioned some of the same humorists over and over: S.J. Perelman, James Thurber, P.G. Wodehouse, Calvin Trillin, and Erma Bombeck. I bought some books by each of these authors, and I found them dated and unfunny—even Bombeck, who delighted me in the 1970s and 80s. How to Write Funny came out in 2001. I guess 16 years is old in comedy years.

Nevertheless, I recommend this book for writers who wish they were funny.

What about you–do you use humor in your writing? Do you have any hints you’d like to share? Have you read this book?  Respond in the comments below.

ALCGC2017: February Check-in

ALCGC2017: February Check-in

“The ARHtistic License Creative Goals Challenge for 2017” is quite a mouthful. I’ve created a shorthand nickname for it: ALCGC2017. Let’s use the Twitter hashtag #ALCGC2017 to tweet about our goals.

One month down. How are you doing on your creative goals?

I think I’m off to a good start. I’ve tweaked my intentions a little in January.

The biggest adjustment is musical practice time. On January 1 I discovered I didn’t want to give up my piano practice for a day to practice recorder instead. (And the teacher in me knows that practicing any instrument only twice a month is insufficient for any skill development.) So now the goal is to spend 30 minutes a day practicing either recorder or guitar, and then an hour on piano. I’ve been able to do that almost every day, except when I’ve been fatigued. I practice in the evenings Thursday through Monday. (Tuesday is my folk dance night, and Wednesday night is bible study.)

It’s been almost two and a half years since I’ve played recorder. First I played through Recorder Karate, which is the book I taught my fifth grade students from, and luckily I can still play all those songs. Then I started working through The Sweet Pipes Recorder Book, Book One. I’m up to Unit 6. My tone sounds like a fifth grader (sigh)But I know that with practice, I’ll improve.

I haven’t played guitar in at least three years, and I’m back to square one. My poor finger tips on my left hand are so sore; it still feels like the razor-sharp wires are slicing through them. But I know from being a beginning level guitar player for the last four decades that the more I practice, the sooner I’ll develop calluses, and the pain will stop. I’m practicing chord progressions from a guitar seminar I took eight years ago, and I’m working through Essential Elements for Guitar by Will Schmid and Bob Morris. I’m up to page 23.

I haven’t gone on an artist date yet, though I have several ideas. It’s just been too stinking cold. (50 degrees in the Arizona desert is bitter cold. Don’t judge me unless you’re used to it being 118 in the summer.) I’m hoping February will be warmer. For now I’m staying home, bundled in my blankie and sipping hot cocoa.

I wrote five poems in January, and sent three to one contest, and one to another. It doesn’t add up to a poem every other day, but I hope to do better in February.


An in-progress page from my coloring journal.

My daughter Katie gave me a coloring journal for Christmas. I hope to fill it with poems written in calligraphy, and color all the beautiful designs. I’ve also started another art project which I’m hoping to unveil on ARHtistic License on February 14.

I’ve been fairly successful at starting my work sessions with a chapter of scripture and meditation. I think I only missed two days. I’m blessed by the time spent in the presence of my Lord. It fuels me for writing.

I’m finding it challenging to keep a month ahead on my blog working essentially only three days a week at it, but I really want to devote the other days to my other writing projects. My books are even more important to me than ARHtistic License. I made some modest progress on them; it would be nice to pronounce them done before the end of the year.

Taking a closer look at the old pieces in my file cabinet these past five Sundays, I realize much of my early shorter work is either dated, stupid, or just not what magazine markets are looking for anymore. Some of my old, unpublished books could be rewritten, but The Unicornologist and The God of Paradox are my priorities for this year. I’m going to keep searching, though–just one more drawer to go.

Last Saturday I attended a Christian writer’s mini-conference with guest speaker and author Allen Arnold. (Oh, I guess I could consider that an artist date!) He reminded us attendees that the Creator who calls us to write also invites us to create with Him; He desires an intimate relationship with us. As I review my notes, I feel inspired, invigorated, and recommitted to my writing. If you have a chance to go to a writer’s conference or retreat, whether a small local one or a major national one, take advantage of the opportunity to get a fresh perspective and do a little networking.


Now it’s your turn. I’d love to know how all of you are doing so far in 2017, so I (and ARHtisticLicense readers) can encourage you. If you’re keeping accountable on your blog, paste a link into the comments below. Or if you don’t have a blog, just tell us your successes and your challenges this past month. ARHtistic License was created to help the creative community keep refining their skills. Check in on March 1, 2017 to share your progress during February.

Fairy Doors?

Fairy Doors?

While looking through some old emails from, I saw a link for fairy doors. I didn’t even know they were a thing, but apparently they are. Researching them online, I discovered there’s even a website devoted to them. They were first found in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but then started popping up all over. Apparently, while you are doing home renovations, you might discover one (or more) in your home. And if you don’t have any, you can buy them. And you can install them inside your home, or out in your garden (or even on a pumpkin). Under each door is a link to the purchasing info.











Some of the doors open, some don’t; some can only be opened by fairies. Some are wood, some are resin. They range in price from $9.45 on up. (And if you just want the illusion of a fairy door, you can buy a decal instead.)


Garden kit.















Tree of life.




Angel wings.


Front porch.





If you fairy door is mounted above a wide moulding, your fairy might need a ladder.


And, of course, fairy door enthusiasts need matching jewelry.

Pendant. (Yes, the pendant doors open.) Bracelet.

So, were you aware of the fairy door phenomenon? Do you have one at your house? Share in the comments below.