Traditions That Carry On

FD stands for Feather Drop, a male fairy who is an adventurer (according to Em)

Traditions can be something you look forward to, or simply endure. Holiday meals are often the latter, but the tradition I’m going to tell you about today is one that anyone can get behind and look forward to.

Years ago, over 20 now, I moved with my eldest child from California, where she had lived all of her eight years, to Missouri. It was a huge change – one that meant she didn’t see her dad regularly. A new school, new friends, new everything. I worried about her, a lot.

While I heaved a huge sigh of relief that he was no longer in my life, doing his best to sabotage the mother-daughter relationship, I knew that she couldn’t see his manipulations for what they were, mean-hearted and selfish and hurtful, she only knew that she missed him.

There are many ways in which you can help your kids through hard times. I made it a point to take her on dates where we would go to the movies and eat dinner at a restaurant, just the two of us. And I talked to her, asked her questions, and did what I could to help her through the challenges of 4th grade in a new school and both of us living with my mom.

The idea of creating an alter ego, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why not create a magical creature who could make my girl smile, go on adventures, and feel super-special, all at once?

So I invented Iliana Llorena Elfling. And not just any elfling, but one that lived with her mother, her grumpy uncle and annoying cousin. Iliana’s world was very different from my daughter’s, and yet had striking similarities. She missed her dad, loved nature, and had a great sense of humor.

We corresponded on and off for around five years. My goal had been to connect with my child on a level that was different from our daily mother/daughter relationship. To that end, I think I succeeded. And while we didn’t delve very deeply into the more painful issues, the life and dad she had left behind, we did indulge in a very special world, where drums are made of snakeskin, elflings and fairies are real, and life has a little magic in it.

Those days are long gone. But around 3-4 years ago, Em discovered the journal that we had written in and asked if she too could have someone special like that. She knew it was me, just as her sister had, and yet she still wanted it.

I created Whip, Snap, and Per – a trio of fairies who were living in our new yard near downtown Kansas City. We didn’t correspond as much as my eldest and I had, but Em’s needs were not what her sister’s were. She has a whole family with dedicated, loving parents. And while she did get uprooted, moving from Belton to Kansas City at the age of 6 1/2 years, her life is very different from what her sister’s was.

And then we decided that we would have “just one more” – only with me being post-menopausal, that meant fostering and, hopefully, adoption. And for the past 15 months, we have shared our lives with a lovely, and challenging toddler. Now three-and-a-half years old, the age of creativity is upon us.

Last weekend, when it was raining and generally impossible to work outside on the front fence my husband and I have been building, I instead focused on our Art Room, a small room off of the dining room on our main level. I rearranged it, and created three different workstations, one for each of the girls and one for myself. And the girls have LOVED it. This also prompted Em to resurrect what is now, indubitably, a family tradition.

By creating Feather Drop, she has cemented fully the tradition of creativity, dreams, and magic into our family. This included finding a special box to put fairy treasures in, and organizing a scavenger hunt in the garden for her little sister.

Where will this family tradition lead us?

Hopefully to love. Whether it is at the beginning or the end, it is all that really matters.

Damn, What a Ride!

I have lived this moment before, I’m pretty sure I have. Yet, every time it hits me, it feels new, transformative even.

The past few days have been absolutely incredible. The words have pushed, shoved, screamed at me to get out on the page. They march out, like a tiny army of ants, ready to conquer the blank pages, and fill the screen.

There are moments when I think that becoming a writer is some awful form of self-torture. Those moments when you sit there, staring at a blank screen thinking, “How the hell do I get Y character from Point A to Point B?”

There are times when the dialogue is so stilted, my ideas and thoughts so scattered that I’m ready to commit seppeku. Seriously, hand me that sword.

And then there are those rare moments, words wrapped in joy, that fall onto the page.

I can’t properly describe it, but when it occurs, the only thing I can do is hang on and WRITE. As fast as possible, notes everywhere, words, phrases, connections – they dance, DANCE out of me in a flood.

And in that moment, everything in my life makes sense. As if every moment I have lived up until this time has brought me inexorably to this place, where the stories breed, the characters laugh, love and hate.

I swear, I could stand on top of a mountain and sing like that overly happy woman on The Sound of Music.

Let me tell you, sometimes writing is one hell of a ride.

p.s. I expect to have the first draft of Schicksal Turnpike done this weekend

Don’t Box Yourself In

Today I drove the kiddo over to Missouri Town 1855. It’s an educational, living history type of place. They cobbled together buildings from all over, disassembling them and then re-assembling them in a park-like town where kids can go and learn about what it was like in the mid-1800s in Missouri.

As we walked, I discussed my latest book, Gliese 581: Departure with the mom of one of my friends.

“Mickie, are you going to read my sci-fi book?” I asked.

“Well, you know, I certainly have watched science fiction movies but I don’t really read science fiction.”

I told her that was completely okay, because sci-fi is really a misnomer.

“Basically, if it has space travel or spaceships, it’s considered sci-fi. But really, what is it past that?” I said as we walked down the gravel path, surrounded by kids. “It’s about people and conflict and love and the choices we make.”

And Mickie’s daughter, my friend Bethany, had written this review on Amazon today:

Gliese 581: The Departure is a wonderfully written book. It sucked me in quickly despite my not being someone who generally reads science fiction. The format creates anticipation from the beginning making it a page-turner. Although science-fiction, it is also a mystery, with clues deposited along the way. The world created by Mrs. Shuck is futuristic and surreal, but does not feel alien to the world we know, so I was able to slide into this future series of events easily, which is important for someone like myself who reads tons of historical fiction! I enjoyed the suspense built into nearly every chapter and the many varied characters that the reader learns to love, hate, feel sorry for, and be encouraged by. Read it!

And thinking about it further made me realize that this is exactly why I have no problem writing cross-genre.

If I write a book about the socioeconomic collapse of the United States and the Second American Civil War – you can call it dystopian if you like. The genre is irrelevant. The message, the story that I want to convey, that’s my focus. My War’s End books were written to convey a message of survival and hope, in the face of terrible odds.

When I complete my Twilight Zone ‘esqe novella and publish it – you might consider it drama, and it may be seen as a standalone book. It is…and it isn’t at the same time.

Schicksal Turnpike will be a standalone novella, that is tied intrinsically into the Kapalaran Universe. But the deeper message is about hope, love, and living the life you were meant to live, intentionally and with passion.

And my newest book Gliese 581: Departure is deemed science fiction, because it has space travel, a Mars colony and more. But it isn’t just that. Because our lives are more than just one thing or the other.

So my point would be this. If you enjoy my writing in one fiction genre, you will likely enjoy it in a completely different genre. It’s worth considering – don’t box yourself in.

The Best 69 Cents I Ever Spent


Today, as we were driving to the library in Grandview, the subject of good writing versus bad writing came up. Em is reading a series of Minecraft story books that have Dee and Dave cringing (as well as complaining loudly) whenever she asks them to read to her.

“I’m reading this one on my own, Mama.” She said, after numerous rants from both of them on the poor quality of story line and writing technique.

For some reason, this reminded me of that ridiculous newsrag Weekly World News that I used to see at the checkout stand in the grocery store.

As an avid reader at a young age, I was captivated by the lurid headlines…

Bat Boy Sighted!

Aliens Sighted Living in Florida!

Two-Headed Baby Breathes Fire!

I knew the difference between fiction and non-fiction, but Weekly World News quite befuddled me. It appeared to be fiction, wrapped in the guise of non-fiction – an anachronism, bewildering.

I remember reading the headlines and turning and asking my stepfather about the paper. He called it trash and refused to answer any further questions about it.

Each week I stared at it, and grew more and more curious.

One week I brought three quarters with me to the grocery store and bought the paper, much to my stepfather’s horror and displeasure. “You are just throwing your money away,” he said, shaking his head.

It was instead the best 69 cents (plus tax) that I ever spent.

Weekly World News at that time, in the early 80s was full of absolute sensationalist crap. I read about how Johnny Carson’s marriage had just ended in divorce papers being filed and the magazine said, “We broke this story five years ago and see it was true!” I might have been eleven but I wasn’t stupid, five years is a long time to wait to be “right.” And their accuracy was anything but.

I needed to understand it – this strange hybrid of fiction/non-fiction. Holding it in my hands reading the lines that were so contradictory, so much an issue of drawing ridiculous, far-fetched conclusions…somehow it helped me understand.

It makes me wish that all of life’s lessons could have come so cheaply.


How My Writing Has Paid Off – Friends/Connections

Writing is often an isolated, solitary act. It is rare that I write with others’ involvement. I may be sitting in the middle of a crowd, but my thoughts are whirling, words churning out beneath my fingers, while around me life is happening, separate from the act of writing.

I was thinking the other day about the ways in which my writing has paid off. You can’t just measure it in terms of monetary earnings either, but in emotional benefits, and other ways. I’d like to share with you some of them I have experienced over the years…


I have found that I have made several connections who later turned out to be great friends as well through my writing.

I think too that my friendships have deepened with some after they read some of my writing. Let’s face it, the YOU that you present when face to face with someone can often be different from the YOU who generates words on a page (virtual or online).

I think that, for me, I usually work out my emotions in black and white letters long before I share them with others. The analytical side of me and the emotional side come together and hammer out an understanding of the world, and place it gently where others can see.

Those words are read and they become the missing piece of the puzzle. Humans are complex creatures, we can’t show every part of ourselves to another human being, there are parts that we hold back, out of fear, out of privacy, or simply forget to mention.

Reading what I write, that gives others a peek into a life you don’t see if you aren’t physically with me at all times.

In this way, for those people who care, they get to see more of me than they might have before. I figure that weeds out the ones who simply cannot relate and brings closer those who can appreciate (even if they don’t always agree) where I am coming from.

Sharing these tidbits has created (often much to my surprise) the deeper and stronger connections/friendships I find myself experiencing lately. And that has really has no monetary value. Instead, it truly is priceless.

What about you? Have you found yourself connecting with others through your writing? Deepening relationships? Or even creating schisms with those of disparate minds?

(This post was originally published on Bubblews at:

Story-Building in the Works

Often I have to remind over-achieving, Type A personality, word-counting ole me, that writing is more than just word counts and making goals.

Right now, this morning, and most of this week, I’ve been answering questions. Such as:

  • What happens when Jacob finds out his father is Scott Cooper?
  • How do Chris and Carrie leave Tiptonville…why would they leave?
  • Do I kill off a certain character in Warsend?
  • What has happened in the U.S. and the world at large in the past ten years?

Right now I’m basically writing notes and leaving chapter titles along with brief descriptions as placeholders for the writing to come.

The ‘what now’ questions still are the most difficult hurdle for me to get through in the writing process. I’ve found myself stymied for months, even years at a time, by the simple question of “What happens next?”

My excitement is building, however. The story in War’s End is just one part of the puzzle, one aspect of the Plague Tale Universe. There are the subset storylines – like Schicksal Turnpike – a Twilight Zone ‘esque, where Michael Aaronson, the father of Jess (heroine of War’s End) plays a bit role.

Having repeat characters that tie into other circles of stories appeals to me. I’m not devoting a huge amount of my time to this, but definitely some.

I’ve also told myself (quite sternly, I might add) that I may NOT write any further on the Chronicles of Liv Rowan until I have finished Book 2 of War’s End. My reasoning on this is two-fold:

  1. With War’s End already in print, I have a responsibility to finish the story.
  2. The Chronicles of Liv Rowan is an ENORMOUS project of twelve books. Currently, my Notes file on the series is 43 pages long. At over 20,000 words, the notes file is the size of a novella. When I begin writing on the series again, I need to first review the notes, and remind myself of the scope and extent of the stories I am writing. Only then will I be able to write. I’ll have no room in my brain for any other stories!

So…back to story-building. I’ve got at least 40,000 words to write before I can call Book 2 even close to done!