Monthly Archives: October 2012


These are five of the grandkids from a few years ago. I don’t have any pictures of me and my brothers dressed up for Halloween from my childhood.


By Author Donna Jean McDunn

Happy Halloween!

Everywhere you go today you will see and hear those words “Happy Halloween”, but isn’t Halloween supposed to be scary? I always thought so when I was young, even though I never felt afraid. Excited, yes, maybe a little worried I wouldn’t find the right costume or get a lot of candy, but never scared.

My mom always took my brother, Jerry and me trick or treating. She’d find a block of houses with the lights on and let us out on the corner and watch us as we moved from place to place. Then she would drive down the street real slow, so she could keep us in sight, not that we were ever in any danger in our small town, but my mom was paranoid that way. I didn’t understand it then, not until after I had my own kids.

Do you remember the year you stopped going trick or treating? I do. I was twelve and would be turning thirteen in less than a month. My older brother had stopped going a few years before me, but I had my little brother. He was seven years younger and by the time Jerry decided he was too old to go, Mike or Mikey, as I called him back then, was just getting into it.

Mikey was five when I decided I was too old to dress up and ask for candy, but someone had to go with him and Mom had to drive the car, which left me as his chaperon.  I didn’t mind because at most of those doors, the host would almost always hand me some candy too, which helped to ease the pain a little.

Last Year at my daughter Jamie’s Halloween party. Not a great picture, but it’s the only one I had.

When the teenage years finally came, I had a lot less desire to spend time with my little brother. The year I was fourteen, the holiday fell on a Saturday and spending time with friends became my priority. The temperature had made it into the mid eighties that afternoon, a rare occurrence in the Midwest on Halloween, and it was a very mild evening.

My best friend, Linda and I spent the early part of that night walking around town admiring all the Halloween decorations. Completely by accident (I swear, because my mom would not have approved and she must never know.) we ran into Pat, Linda’s next-door neighbor and his friend, Eddie both boys we went to school with. We ended up sitting in the cemetery telling scary urban legends about ghosts and murder. It was the best time ever, but it had to end by 9:45 so I could meet my mom at Linda’s house at 10:00.

Every Halloween I think about that night. I’m not sure why, but it could have something to do with the fact I started dating one of those boys during the end of my senior year and a year later we were married. We have spent a lot of Halloweens together ever since, but few have ever topped that first one.

What’s Halloween without some Jack-o-lanterns?

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

November 19, 2012 is the date Mystery Times Nine 2012 will be released for sale on Amazon. The anthology includes my story Trapped and eight other stories of mystery. It can be preordered now. Here’s the link.

I can be found at Twitter as Donna Jean McDunn @02dmcdunn

Author page












A Short Story: I Couldn’t Help It

Life Is Fun!

A Short Story: I Couldn’t Help It

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

For all of you out there who have been around children, I have decided to introduce you to a little boy I created. My question for you though: Is he really only fiction? You read the story and then decide for yourself.


He looked up and saw Mommy coming toward him. “Oh, oh,” He looked down at the mud puddle he was sitting in.


“Shawn Francis Quinn. What are you doing? I told you not to get dirty while I dressed for work.”

She sounded really mad. “I’m just playing.” He wiped his hands on the front of his shirt. It left streaks of mud behind. He gazed up at her. “I couldn’t help it.”

Mommy’s face turned a pretty shade of red. “Shawn, go inside the porch and wait for me there. I’ll run in and get your bath water ready. I’ll be right back to help you—so just wait there and try not to touch anything.”

Shawn watched her go inside the house, but he didn’t want another bath and he didn’t want Mommy to go to work anyway. He kicked the muddy water.

Walking slowly toward the house and stepping in as much of the soft sticky mud as he could while he listened to the neat squish-squish sound of his shoes. He liked squishy mud and he liked that sound, it made him giggle and he almost forgot why he was going inside, but then he remembered and scowled.

He opened the door, leaving a cool mud handprint on the handle. He plopped down on the rug and pulled one shoe off, tossing it to the side. Chunks of wet mud and dirty water splattered on the floor and wall. He watched, fascinated as the icky stuff slid down the yellow wall.

He stood up, leaving the other shoe on and pulled his shirt over his head and yanked. The muddy shirt came off suddenly and he stumbled against the windowsill, knocking Mommy’s flowerpot onto the floor, all of its contents spilled out.

Shawn picked up the cracked pot and stuffed the plant back inside of it with as much dirt as he could. It looked a little funny when he held it up, but he put it back on the windowsill anyway. He tried sweeping the rest of the dirt under the rug with his wet shirt, but it just smeared it around and then everywhere he stepped, he saw his foot print of his toes and the bumpy bottom of his one remaining shoe.

Mommy would be returning soon to take him to his bath. He plunked down on the floor again and tried pulling his shoe off. It was stuck, so he kicked with all his might—the shoe flew into the air just as Mommy stood in the doorway. It bounced off the ceiling, flinging mud and dirty water everywhere and landed with a thud on her chest.

Her eyes were wide with surprise and she just stood there looking down at the muddy goop on her white shirt.

Shawn tried not to laugh, but she looked so funny all covered with mud—he couldn’t help it. The laughter started in his tummy and bubbled up into his mouth. It burst out onto his lips.

Mommy glared at him, but then her face changed. The corners of her eyes crinkled up and her lips began to twitch. She laughed so hard she had to sit down on the floor. Shawn had never seen her laugh so much. She pulled him onto her lap for a hug.

Shawn looked up into her laughing face. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help it.”

“I know buddy.” Mommy kissed the end of his muddy nose. “I couldn’t help it either.”

It doesn’t taste as good as it I thought!

So what do you think? Is this fiction?

Well yes, but I couldn’t find the picture I wanted of my grandsons after they “accidentally” played in the mud.

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

My facebook author page is:

My facebook profile page is

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.

Working With An Editor

This is a depiction of my mood when I opened my manuscript after my editor was finished with it the first time. Please notice the sun just beginning to come through the clouds after the storm. Yeah, I got over it too.

Working With An Editor

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

If you are a traditionally published author or a self published author who hired an editor to look over your manuscript, then you have worked with an editor. You know that feeling of seeing the email come in with your work attached after the editor has gone over it. Part of you is excited and can’t wait to open it and learn what she thinks of all your hard work, but then there’s the other part of you that’s scared to death. What if she hated it and has changed her mind or wants you to rewrite the entire book.

That’s how I felt anyway as I stared at the email with my manuscript, Nightmares in the subject line, for five minutes. I couldn’t bring myself to open it, so instead of facing it right then, I washed the dishes, sorted the laundry, fed the cats, cleaned the cat pans and finally worked up enough courage to see what she had to say.

The first thing I saw in the body of the e-mail, after the greeting of, Hi Donna, were these words: “Okay, I’ve gone through the first four chapters. Now is the moment where you take a breath and relax. When you open the attachment you will see many, many things. Don’t panic. Have no fear. :o)”

Let me tell you, the happy face at the end did nothing to squelch the growing panic in my stomach. I literally had to close my eyes, afraid to read any further. My first rational thought a few minutes later: Was my story really that bad? My second: Is she going to make me rewrite the entire first four chapters of my book as I had feared earlier? My third and final thought: What are my choices?

I could delete the whole thing and pretend I never received it and never see my book published or I could keep reading and find out exactly what she wanted.

I chose to continue reading and my fear began to subside as I read. She didn’t want to be my ghostwriter; all she wanted to do was spruce up my words a little. She wrote that she had made a few adjustments and offered suggestions, all of which I had the choice of accepting or rejecting or simply changing to something I thought might work better.

Then she went on to explain how to accept or reject the edited material and how to add my own comments, plus she recommended a course on sentence structure and longer sentences, put out by and is called Building Great Sentences. This was exciting; I’m always open to learning more about writing, but then I realized this was her way of introducing her first big complaint and she thought most of my sentences were too short.

I’ll admit it irked me a little, because I had also read that a variety of sentence lengths are important and I’ve read where other big name authors have recommended short sentences because it kept a story moving along and young adult readers liked it that way.

So what do you do? I believe mostly it’s a matter of preference and because she’s the editor, I’m not going to argue. As long as it doesn’t damage the content or change the message of what I want the reader to get from the sentence, I’ll do my best to revise it to her liking.

My editor’s other complaint was about repetitive words, which is pretty much universal with everyone. Even I get annoyed when I read books that continually use the same words or phrases multiple times and especially in the same paragraph.

A few months ago, I read this great young adult novel series that I loved. I can’t wait for the next and final book to be published, but there was one thing that started to bug me. The author used the phrase: “He shuddered” or “She shuddered” all the time and in all four of her books and multiple times on the same page. It started to wear pretty thin, but not enough to keep me from finishing the series, yet some people may not be as forgiving as I am about repeats.

The problem is, when it’s your own work; it is SO much harder to catch. I realized when I read my own manuscript silently to myself or out loud, I still couldn’t see or hear all the repeated words, but believe me, an editor will and your manuscript will come back to you with a bunch of highlighted words all over the place.

The way I have solved that problem, okay solved might not be the correct usage, but I have managed to find so many more duplicates by going over each line in a paragraph and comparing it to all of the other sentences, deliberately looking for one word at a time to see how often I had used it.

The first time I wrote the paragraph above, I had repeated at least two or three times the following words; book, catch, repeat, repeated and duplicate. I corrected the problem by thinking of synonyms. Example: Book, replaced with manuscript, catch, replaced with find, repeated, replaced with duplicates so that in the end I used each word and the synonym only once.

So do yourself a favor and look for duplicate words in all of your work before you submit the manuscript to any publishers or agents. The publisher will still have their editor look over the manuscript and there will be changes, it’s inevitable because much of writing is subjective, but in the end you’ll be glad you did.

What do you think, do repetitive words bother you? And which do you prefer, short sentences, long ones or a verity of lengths? Do you believe much of writing is subjective?

Here’s a link for anyone interested in a contest for young adults. It closes October 31, 2012 so get your story in soon. It pays $500 for 1st prize. Check it out:

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit and comment. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

My facebook author page is:

My facebook profile page is

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.
















The Good Old Days

That’s me holding the chicken and my brother Jerry sitting beside me. Notice the pump behind me. We didn’t have running water in our house. The pump is where we got our water.

The Good Old Days

By Author Donna Jean McDunn

I grew up in Iowa during the 1950’s and 60’s. Things were simpler. We didn’t own a TV until I was seven and no one had ever heard of a personal computer or a cell phone. Those were things of fiction back then.

We spent a lot of time outside playing. My older brother, Jerry always wanted to play cowboys or army and of course I was always on the losing side. I didn’t mind. I admit I was a tomboy growing up. I played with worms, snakes, frogs, and toads, climbed trees and jumped off of buildings.

We used his toy trucks to build roads in the dirt around our mom’s flowers and when we tired of that, we’d go find some crawdads for fishing in the crawdad hole. (The crawdad hole is gone now. There’s a McDonalds sitting where it used to be.)

Our older sister, Joyce was always taking pictures of us. I hardly ever posed for a picture without some kind of animal or my baby brother, Mike or one of my nephews, Danny and Tommy with me.

Me and my baby brother Michael

We’d stay outside until dark and then catch lightening bugs (some people call them fireflies). We would put them in jars so we could turn the lights off and watch them blink off and on.

Whatever my big brother, Jerry and the neighbor boys did, I followed, but because he was three years older than me, he got to do things I couldn’t; like ride his bike to the park three blocks away. Oh, I had my tricycle, but I wasn’t allowed to go that far on it.

That’s me, I’m the girl in the picture. Jerry is getting on his bike to ride to school and the other two boys were neighbors. It was the first day of school and I was so wanting to ride my bike to school, but all I had was a tricycle that was too small for me. I was SO jealous!

I wanted a real two-wheeled bike.

When he wasn’t riding his bike, sometimes I would lean it against something so I could get on it and sit on the seat, but my legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals and push them all the way down to make it move.

Sometimes Jerry would push the bike while I sat on it. But he grew tired of that pretty fast, so then I’d push the bike myself and stand on the pedal and coast  like it was a giant scooter.

But the best times were when he’d give me a ride around the block. I’d sit sidesaddle on the bar, being careful to keep my feet from touching the spokes in the front tire and we’d sail down the road with the wind in our hair.

The first summer I discovered I could push the bike and coast along on it, I couldn’t reach the pedals while sitting on the seat. By the following year, I had grown enough that I could push the pedal down, but my toes didn’t quite reach the lowest point and the ground was still a long way from the bottom of my foot.

If you’ve ever seen one of those old boy’s bikes, then you know size matters when it comes to touching the ground with the bar in the middle, especially when you want to get off.

One day Jerry found me with his bike,  coasting along as I stood on the pedal. He watched me for a minute and I was waiting for him to tell me to get off it, but instead he said, “I bet you could ride that thing if someone helped you. I’ll hold it, you get on.”

As soon as I was seated, he started pushing. He ran along the side and then he gave it a huge shove and yelled, ”Pedal.” So I did, but actually pedaling and sitting on the bike were way different and since my legs weren’t quite long enough yet to reach the pedal with my entire foot as it dropped toward the ground, I had to catch it as it came back up and then push the pedal down again.

But I rode that bike all the way to the end of the block. I wasn’t allowed to go past the corner by myself and that’s when I realized I didn’t know how to turn around and I couldn’t push the pedal back far enough for the brake to stop the bike, so I stopped pedaling.

Jerry yelled, “Turn the handlebars into the grass.”

I could hear him running toward me and did what he said, but the bike had slowed so much, it wasn’t going to make it to the grass and I didn’t think he’d get there in time to keep the bike and me from ending up in the gravel.

I was right. I think every exposed piece of skin was torn off, but did that keep me from riding whenever I could get someone to give me a shove?

No Way!

A year later and I was finally able to ride the bike with no help and the year after that, I got my own two wheeled (girl’s) bike.

How about you? What’s some of your fondest memories of growing up?

As always, I love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address, I’ll visit, comment and follow. If you’d rather be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I will like, be friends, follow, or Tweet.

Facebook author page: Facebook profile page: Twitter: @02dmcdunn

It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.