“The Garden” – Part II


Associated Trellis – Extra! Extra!

Cockroaches Guilty as Charged! 

From my perch on the trellis, overlooking the hub-bub in the soil and tiny pebbles of The Garden below, I watch the Snails escort the convicted Cockroaches – bound up in braided-ivy-vine – across the wide expanse of the garden. Slowed to the Snails’ pace, the Cockroaches lurch like zombies as the contingency travels over decorative brick and hot desert slate. Their expedition is observed by Millipede urchins and an assortment of Beetles in fine Queen Anne’s lace petticoats. They are on their way to the compost.  

Arachnid runners in hourglass-stamped tunics jump to my side with the latest interviews and eye-witness reportage from the ground. Dragonflies alight on surrounding leaves with their eye-in-the-sky accounts. 

Below, spectators and hecklers en route hurl discarded coffee grounds and bits of rotted cabbage. The Cockroaches snick-snick along, fettered together like a chain gang. Wild flowers unwrap their withering petals, slinging dried up pollen upon the procession. Not that it would damage the Cockroach’s armor plating – it is simply an exhibition of disgust.  

I lament the current state of insect affairs. It seems that just weeks ago all was serene here in this patch of The Garden.  We all knew the responsibilities of our genus, be we Lepidopteron, Arachnid, Coleopteran; coming out of cocoon or burrow or hive, we all knew our place. Ah, the good ole days; how I miss them. 

As I wax nostalgic, Battalions of Dandelions release clusters of fluffy white paratroopers. They float, caught on the breezes. In crisp military fashion, they fan out and set up their posts. 

I exchange pieces of molted-wing parchment with several stringer Moths, and dispatch them to the lower trellis floors. Ancient presses start their incessant clanging; recycled butterfly-wing scales are loaded and ground into ink and readied for printing. 

Through my compound orbs, I watch as two Cockroaches in Ghillie suits push a curious conveyance of upturned shell into a copse of mushrooms. My breath catches. My phototactic eyes bulge. 

Boom! The shell of fertilizer explodes! The shock wave rumbles across the garden, from the daffodils to the impatiens, blowing Moths, Butterflies and other creatures into a tangle of legs and wings. 

The smoke clears from the blast site and a crater the size of a bird bath emerges. Insurgent Roaches scurry in clutching spears of dried grass. They punch through the constraints of their brethren, liberating them. 

The stench of charred wings and scorched appendages floats skyward in a black cloud. Pulverized Snail shells litter the blast zone; their slime plops upon the earth. Dead leaves are pounded into mulch. Royal attendants scramble to secure our Exulted Mantis.

Under my six feet, cracks appear in the trellis. I hear snapping noises. My workmates and I tremble on a precipitous ledge. Bugs cling to the trellis with all the legs they’ve got. Cries of terror and pain disrupt the black after-bomb silence. My feathery antennae are tingly and itchy. I see EMT’s – Emergency Medical Ticks – dispatched, and they begin infusing stored blood into the wounded. 

Further out, among the branches of the mighty oak and maple, our avian neighbors sit and observe, their twittering silenced.


Filed under Personal Articles

“The Garden” – Part I

Associated Trellis – Your Yard & Garden News Agency  

Today’s Headlines!

B52 Dragonfly Crashes in NM Desert 

Raindrops Flood the South Heal Print

Three Injured in Hive Collapse 

Migratory Birds Return – Nesting Prices Soar 

Sports – Beetles Grab Coveted Butter-Cup

Cockroach Trial Enters Closing Arguments

The Ants convey the Royal Exalted One on a pheasant-feathered palanquin supported by bronze-colored poles. Millions of garden-crawlers have gathered for the court proceedings, buzzing and clicking.

They are such show-offs, the Ants – just because they can carry so much. Big deal. They all teek-teek on eensy feet about the dais, acting important. They are so boring to look at. All black like Goths. They make me sick with their arrogance. But I am an Under-Moth – a staff-reporter bug – and I must deal with it. 

The Lady-Bugs-in-Waiting come next, they flutter behind in case some bug makes a misstep or loses a leg. The Exalted One sits upon her dais – a stage festooned with ridiculous paintings of the constellations. Her platform rises in the middle of fur-coated Caterpillars. They make me sick, too – they are so show-offy, those fur coats in ridiculous colors. And it’s after Memorial Day, so they should not be wearing their fur coats at all.

Some Stink Bug belches in the back. Crickets entertain us, their back legs and wings strumming. Pine cones are fired up by the Lightening Bugs and flare against faces of the spectators. Chandeliers of Spiders’ webs reflect the pine cones and the Lightning Bugs’ derrieres. For a moment, I am mesmerized by the glow; my nature begs me to flit toward the light. I wrestle with my feelings; I stay still. 

The Spiders trundle their saddlebags across the cobblestones and picnic on wrapped-up corpses. Above, the surrounding scaffolding groans with the weight of millions of Gnats. As if this was a picnic, thousands of the Gnats play and watch a light-spirited chess game; each contingent moves a piece along the squares on the chessboard. Underworld side bets are taking place, nesting items being exchanged like trading cards. Kennels of ticks, they bark and bang against the wire with boundless energy. 

The Exalted Mantis surveys the assembly. Holy Mealworms! Is that a felt scrap fashioned into a Colonial tri-corner hat on the Mantis? On a triangular head? That fashion statement is rather redundant, don’t you think? Someone must talk to her costume attendant. I much prefer last winter’s Russian ushanka to this ridiculous frippery. 

The Mantis raises her fore-most legs.

Outside, royal attendants stop the weathercock with an excruciating squeal, its tail reflecting the dying rays of a setting sun. All activity stops in anticipation of the proceedings. 

Amorous eight-legged spinners stop and suspend webs, sixteen legs in a final upheaval, stricken in mid-weave. 

The Mantis bangs the gavel – the trial begins. 

Snails monitor the activity very slowly, shells polished like constabulary badges. Outside, a Lady-Bug-in-Waiting is snared on the thorn of a tea rose! Several officers slursh over to the disturbance, silver slime and shiny shells march out to quiet the interruption.

Butterflies flit about flapping multi-colored wings of amethyst and cerulean and scarlet, pointing their antennae at those who are disruptive. The Hummingbird Brigade is overhead, creating breezes so that we can suffer the humidity of the day. 

Along the perimeter, floral clusters crane their stem-necks and point their open blooms to the action on the bandstand. Youthful stamens and pistils are straining and stretching; they vie for attention and are shushed! Their elders flare their petals – a final murmur and then a hush. 

The case continues: 

The Mantis raises an appendage and demands silence; she rotates her head and glares at the Snails. They tick their shells, one against the other, signaling for quiet. A hush. We all watch the stilled weathercock. We wait to see which way the Mantis will direct its swing to announce the  verdict. The verdict comes down.

There has been conspiracy among the Cockroaches! This cannot stand! This cannot be allowed! The multiple eyes of multiple nations are upon us! We set a precedent, and a decision is dealt upon the prehistoric little garbage-munchers. The Mantis points to the compost foothills. We banish them!

It is decided.

It will be written on cast-off parchment wings and fur pelts of ancestral Caterpillars. 


Filed under Personal Articles

So my book is published…now what?

by Elizabeth H. Cottrell

During the first year of the COVID pandemic, I wrote a book that had been in my head and heart for over ten years. During the second year of the pandemic—thanks in great part to Karen’s encouragement, support, and beta reading—I researched my options for getting the book published and did the arduous task of manuscript preparation for my publisher. HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire launched this past July 2022 by Koehler Books in Virginia Beach. Since many of Karen’s readers are also writers and authors, I thought I might share a bit of the journey with you.

There are lots of valid reasons for writing a book and trying to get it published. There may be stories—fiction or memoir—that you feel compelled to write. You may have a message or ministry you feel called to share (my own primary motivation). You may have a consulting or speaking business, and a book gives you credibility and a product to sell. You may have a yearning to be a published author. Any of these is reason enough, but don’t harbor the illusion that a single book—especially your first book—is likely to make you rich and famous. You’ll be lucky if you break even.

The publishing industry, like so many, is experiencing a significant consolidation, and as the few remaining companies get larger it’s harder and harder for a new author to get noticed. Getting a literary agent is equally challenging—they only make money if your book makes money, so convincing them that this will happen is a tough sell. Self-publishing is becoming a much more appealing option, but there is a steep learning curve and you must take responsibility for every aspect of the journey from writing and editing to formatting and design. And then, of course, there’s printing and marketing. 

It can be daunting. 

You always have the option of paying a vanity press to do everything for you, but that is quite expensive—upwards of $10-15,000 or more. There are lots of small publishers, varying in quality and integrity, who will take your money and get a book in your hands, but they do very little, if anything, to help you sell or promote it. 

I chose a “hybrid publisher,” which is a new breed that has emerged from all these industry changes. I purchased a “package” for about $5,000 that included acquiring ISBN numbers, editing, interior layout design, cover design, and getting my book listed with Ingram book distribution service and all the major online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.). Koehler provided lots of guidance and training for marketing, but much of this is still my responsibility. I signed a contract to give them publishing rights for three years, but I maintain the copyright and can do whatever I want with it after that three-year period. At no extra charge, they are also helping me explore the opportunity to create an audiobook. 

I worked hard to “build the buzz” for several months before my book launch. I made a spreadsheet with quotable excerpts from the book and used Canva to create graphics (sized appropriately for each social media platform) to post several times a week on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. I wrote to lots of other authors and influencers to request testimonials to include in the book and use on social media.

Now that the book is out, it’s tempting to want to coast, but since the number of books sold is largely dependent on my efforts, I know that’s not the wise choice. Fortunately, my topic is “evergreen” and won’t become dated anytime soon. I still want to push hard this fall in hopes of increasing holiday gift sales. Here are the highlights of my marketing plan for the next few months:

  • Contact as many people as possible who were quoted or cited in the book and let them know – hopefully they’ll consider sharing information about the book with their audience.
  • Be on the lookout for focus or interest groups or trade associations related to card and note writing (stationery, paper, pens, inks, etc.). 
  • Make myself available for speaking engagements. 
  • Make myself available (via Zoom) to join book clubs who choose to read my book. 
  • Continue to post (less often) about the book and share tips and advice from the book on social media. 
  • Try to identify major magazines that have Holiday Gift Guides and try to get listed in them. 
  • Look for guest opportunities on blogs (like this one—thank you, Karen!) and podcasts.
  • Ask my followers to ask their own local bookstores if they will carry my book. 

Long-term projects that support the book’s message:

  • Consider developing one or more mini-courses for those who want to learn more about writing notes.
  • Create digital e-books of sample notes (sympathy, thank you, etc.)
  • Offer seasonal tips and support. 
  • Look for good values in quality stationery and writing accessories to share with my social media followers and those on my email list.
  • Some have suggested I open an Etsy store to sell digital products, but this requires another round of research to identify pros and cons.

I’m surprised how often I’m being asked, “What are your plans for your next book?” I know many of my writer friends, especially those who write fiction, are teeming with ideas and stories they want to explore. My own writing aspirations are more along the lines of sharing the things I read and reflect on to strengthen the connections of our most Heartspoken life, and that is most easily accomplished through my blog, Heartspoken.com and my Compass Points newsletter. 

I find it tricky not to let myself get overwhelmed with all the things I could be doing, but I want to focus on doing what I can and enjoy the process. It’s enormously gratifying to now be a “published author,” but I’ve learned that getting the book published is actually just the beginning of a whole new journey—one I plan to enjoy as much as possible.

I’d welcome tips or suggestions from any of you who are more experienced in this journey. I’m no longer young, but I’m still trainable.

Elizabeth’s circuitous career has taken her from published leprosy researcher to stay-at-home mother, to community activist and leader serving on nonprofit and corporate boards, to ham radio operator, to freelance writer/editor and blogger at Heartspoken.com. Above all, she is a connector and encourager whose expertise and passion for note writing is coming at just the right time to a world made keenly aware by pandemic that we humans are hardwired for connection. 

For more information about her book, including options for ordering it, reading sample pages, and testimonials, go to Heartspoken book. If you order from Amazon, while you’re there, be sure to click the FOLLOW button to her Amazon profile.

Connect with Elizabeth: 


Filed under Branding & Platform, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing, Special Events

Iris van Ooyen embodies “Radiant”

Going from surviving to thriving

By author Iris van Ooyen

Writing Radiant: How to Have All the Energy You Need to Live a Life You Love was something that had been in the back of my mind for a while. During the pandemic I realized the insights I had acquired over the years were much needed now—not later.

I’ve always been passionate about supporting people in having more energy and loving their life. That’s what I’ve assisted clients with for many years. 

I believe life is meant to be enjoyed. We’re here to thrive—not just get by and survive, though that’s what many people are doing for a variety of reasons.

One of those reasons is lack of energy. Another important one is lack of clarity on what you truly want and what makes your heart sing. Plus many of us have lost touch with our body and our intuition. 

That’s what happened to me when I was burnt out at the age of twenty-four. 

I was a perfectionist who took on too much responsibility because I cared so much — about my demanding marketing job, my family and how other people felt in general.

I wanted everything to work out for everyone. In fact, I was so busy taking care of everybody else, I forgot to take care of myself. Instead of sitting down to relax I cleaned the house, visited my recently widowed mother-in-law and tried to be the perfect girlfriend.

I had to take naps in the afternoon to be able to stay awake for dinner. A couple of years later I finally ended up at a naturopath who told me “You have energy for four hours per day and you do the rest on willpower.”—

Part of me was proud for sticking it out on pure will, until he finished his sentence.

—“and it is damaging your organs.’’

That was a huge wake-up call for me. I realized that even several years after my burnout I hadn’t really made the changes that were needed for me to be happy and fully alive. To thrive. 

I had been going on this treadmill of things that were expected of me and that I expected of myself. I had these dreams that when I stopped and looked at them, I realized weren’t bringing me the joy and fulfillment I had thought they would bring me. 

To the outside world I had it made. The corporate job, the brand-new house, the handsome husband. I had everything I thought I had ever wanted. And I realized none of that mattered when I wasn’t happy. When I didn’t have the energy to do what I desired, let alone enjoy life.

First, I needed to get healthy again. I had to find ways to have more energy—and I did. When I had more energy, I started looking at what I truly wanted and who I was below all the layers that I had adopted over time. As a result, I started my own business. 

I discovered I am highly sensitive and highly intuitive. Many things fell into place from those two revelations. I understood more about myself, and past decisions now made more sense. With this new perspective I realized that what I had always seen as a weakness turned out to be a result of being overstimulated. There was nothing wrong with me—I simply hadn’t learned how to support a highly sensitive person. 

This ignorance had caused many problems that could have been avoided if only I had known that I was a sensitive soul! 

That’s one of the reasons I created my free Sensitivity Quiz. Because life makes so much more sense when you know who you are and what you need. Not because you’re being difficult (because that’s what a lot of sensitive people are being told) but because your brain works in a different way!

A highly sensitive person holds on to much more detail, therefore they reach the limit of the amount of information they can absorb faster than those who are not highly sensitive. 

It was a relief to realize I wasn’t fragile or exaggerating, my brain was simply wired differently!

I want people to not have to go through the struggle and learning I went through. That’s why I mentor people and created online programs on managing your energy, embracing your sensitivity, and learning to listen to your intuition. With Radiant I’ve made the insights even more readily available for a larger crowd, in the hopes it will help people steer clear from burnout. 

My book is not just for sensitive souls—though if you are highly sensitive, you’ll probably have an even bigger need for the tools in this book.

If you fear you are nearing a burnout or simply don’t have the amount of energy and enthusiasm for life that you would like to have, then I highly recommend reading Radiant

I share many very personal experiences because I feel it helps to see the challenges others go through and understand why the tools I developed made a difference for me. With social media we can get the impression that everyone else lives a perfect life and has it all figured out while we struggle. And I wanted to show an honest story of my trials, tribulations and victories so the reader has something to relate to. It’s important not to feel alone on this journey here on earth.

Life’s too short to be miserable or exhausted. I believe that which brings you the most joy is what will bring you the most. That’s what has been guiding my choices for many years. 

And I hope you’ll give yourself permission to pursue that, too!

If you’re curious whether you’re a sensitive soul you can take the free Sensitivity Quiz here or sign up for my email tips & inspiration here

Wishing you much energy and inspiration!


Iris van Ooyen is the creator of the SWEET POWERTM approach to personal and career development, growth, and self-care. An MBA with a background in corporate marketing, Iris combines her extensive business experience with her renowned razor-sharp intuitive insights in order to support thousands of clients in living fuller, healthier lives. 

In addition to Radiant, Iris wrote her YA Fantasy novel Poisoned Arrow—because it was too much fun not to. Click FOLLOW on her Amazon Author Profile.

Connect with Iris:







Sensitivity Quiz


Amazon Author Profile for Iris



Elizabeth H. Cottrell’s stellar review of van Ooyen’s book – 

Cottrell’s “Radiant” Book Review


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events