Author CJ Dunham

Author & Presenter
December 6th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Christmas Short Story

“Cradle of the Heart”

By  CJ Dunham


I suddenly looked up and found myself standing in my flannel nightgown outside some ancient Middle Eastern town.  It was dark. A strong wind peeled apart the pile of clouds and unveiled the most magnificent and massive star I had ever seen. Gaping, all I could do was stare at it. Was it a comet? No, it was stationary, and yet how could a star be so big? This orb pulsated, as if breathing light. What was it? And where was I?

Shocked, I looked around at this foreign scene. Behind me clay houses crouched and huddled, dark and silent. Before me I saw hills rolling out in an undulating series of fields, dotted with white rocks. Some of the rocks stood up and moved! I laughed at myself when I realized that they were sheep.

How did I get here? Before my mind could form a single possibility, the star was outmatched by an even brighter, all but blinding light. It poured down through what appeared to be a hole in the sky. This was not moonlight!

As my eyes adjusted I began to make out forms in the light. Impossible. But there they were, real as life, wearing shimmering white robes. There was a host of people in the sky!  And then they started singing, singing “Glory to God in the Highest,” with such magnitude that their voices echoed off every tile on every roof and resonated in my bones. I trembled, whether from the force of the voices or my reaction to them, I didn’t know.

I stood with mouth open, heart dancing. Soon these dirt streets would be flooded with citizens bursting out of their dwellings to see this air-born choir.  I turned, ready to beckon the crowds toward me, but the streets remained empty.  Where was everyone? How could they sleep through this? Someone else had to see this!

Unable to contain myself, I ran down the slope looking for a shepherd—somebody, anybody! It wasn’t until I tumbled to the bottom that I realized that this hill was in fact hollow, for I stood at the opening of a cave.

More shocking than the people standing in mid-air were the people I saw inside. I must have gasped as several men turned around, and upon seeing me appeared to be equally as shocked. They just stood there, agape, staring back, wearing silken robes and jeweled turbans. Just beyond them huddled some Arabic or Israeli men in course, bland tunics.

Startled, I jumped back when a donkey brayed, and looking in its direction I saw it tied up to a post. Beside it were geese penned in against the stony wall, and a cow munching straw.  Shadows jerked and flickered from a small light. They all stared back at me as I stood stock-still, smelling wet animal hair, perfume, hay, and smoke from a burning clay lamp.

Rain started falling, pelting my back, and I heard the muffled sobs of a woman. Though faint, it was nonetheless heart-wrenching.

“Why is someone crying?” I asked.  They all continued to stare at me; the Arabs with their sparkling foreheads and black mysterious eyes; the shepherds with their shaggy beards and creased faces. Looking down, I wondered how I must have appeared to them, wearing a flannel night gown, but oddly they didn’t seem to even notice my attire. Instead, their eyes were forlorn and fixed on my eyes, as if they sought some urgent answer from me.

“Was it only a myth?” trembled the lips of an Arab.

“Could the angels have lied?” choked the man with a staff.

Even the sheep baaaa-ed at me as if asking a similar question.

Their sandals stepped back and I saw another man crouched on his knees, his strong large hands gripping a trembling woman’s shoulders as she lay, half reclined, against him. Her dark hair was slivered with straw. She wept beside a depression that had been carved out of the rock wall, and I perceived that it was a feeding trough, a manger.

There in the straw-filled manger was an empty linen cloth with the depression of a tiny human form where her infant had lain. She raised her swollen eyes and trembled,

“My baby!  Where is my baby?”

All the strangers looked at me.  Rain poured outside as memories poured in my mind.  My tears stung as they trickled down over flushing cheeks.  This woman’s lips quivered again,

“Where is my child?”

My body shook: I knew the answer.  “I—I—los—I lost him.” Blood seemed to turn to shame as it flooded my being. “I lost him,” I heard myself gasp. And I knew exactly where. “I lost him in the holiday crowds.  I lost him while wrapping gift boxes.  I lost him in the parties, and in the stress of doing everything right.” My eyes skirted from their probing, disbelieving eyes.

“I held him close—at first.” I weakly tried to justify.

Just like this Israeli town, throughout my hurried, self-indulgent days, I too “slept” while angels sang.  I looked into the pleading pain-filled eyes of the infant’s mother and I had to confess, “I don’t know how it happened. I had him in my arms. He was amazing and beautiful. But then something changed. In me. Over the years I –I lost him. I lost your baby!”

I turned and fled into the streaking rain, hitting my face like pounding tears as I ran up the hill and fell into the soggy grass.




I bolted up.  The cave and its flickering light were gone. It was still dark but I could see that the grass had changed to floral sheets. The glowing red numbers of a digital clock was all that glared at me. Clock? Sheets? Of course, it was just a dream! I sighed the sigh of my life.  I wasn’t wet with rain, I was damp with my own sweat.

But even as I realized that the Israeli mother was only a dream, another horror seized me.  My baby!  Where was my child?

I ran down the hallway into his room, where I grabbed my surging heart with relief.  There, tucked under his blanket was my gently sleeping child.  I adoringly caressed his soft head and felt his tiny back rise and fall with each slumbering little breath, yet I was still not at peace.  I had lost a child; a precious newborn boy.

I forced my feet to walk down the dark hallway and into the living room, where I stared at the Christmas lights blinking on the pine tree.  The presents were piled in red and green and gold as if burying a truth underneath.

What was I to do?  Throwing all this tradition out in the snow wouldn’t bring the baby back.  Was I to take a plane to Israel and look for an empty cave? As if an invisible hand were pushing me, I stumbled to the coat closet.  Reflexively, I slid my bare feet into snow boots and my arms into coat sleeves. There in the back of the closet were two coats I was putting in the trash in the morning.  They were perfectly good, merely unwanted, and I reasoned I didn’t have time to take them to the thrift store.  The trash can was their fate.

I seized them and my purse and found myself driving down dark city streets. There it was.  I pulled over to the curb and shut off the engine.  Impulsively, I ran across the sidewalk and through the old wooden door with the coats. And then, not two steps inside, I stopped. I was standing in a room full of cots.

The streetlight glowed through the cracked window and revealed a room full of homeless people sleeping here on Christmas Eve.  For them there were no presents under a tree, no family feast waiting, no sparkling plate of sugar cookies at their door.

Then I spied them on the floor:  a sleeping mother and child lying in a shadow.  I crept over to them, like a shadow myself, and laid the coat over the mother who had neither cot nor blanket.  I knelt down and laid the other coat on the child, shivering on the cold floor.  I lifted her slowly into my arms.  More than my coat, I gave my warmth.  She nestled her face into the crook of my arm.  I leaned my head against the cinder block wall and my sore eyes gratefully closed.

Say it was only another dream, but I’m sure I did smell straw and animal hair again.  I walked into the stable cave in my plaid gown and snow boots.  All eyes of the visitors flew open as I held the Christ child in my arms, his body warm against mine.

The woman leaped to her dirt covered feet, tears of relief and elation springing from her swollen eyes.  Her husband stood, lips trembling. The Arabs dropped to their kingly knees. The shepherds’ eyes filled with awe, as if they now understood of the glorious song, and they, likewise, lowered to a knee, for this babe was more wonderful than all the hosts of angels.

I looked down into this baby’s face.  His eyes looked up into mine.  His tiny fingers wrapped around my finger.  His tiny lips, his dark eyes, his thin black hair, were precious beyond description.  I held my infant Savior in my arms.  He closed his eyes to sleep as I gently laid him in Mary’s arms, but still and forever I cradle him in my heart.

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November 28th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Sampson’s Hair – Career Makeover Part 5

Many of us know the Biblical story of Samson, the ancient judge of Israel. As a token of his dedication to God, he was told that as long as he didn’t cut his hair he would have superhuman strength. Then along came Delilah, a woman who betrayed the unruly Samson and sliced off his hair, instantly rendering him as weak as any other man, and turned him over to his enemy, the Philistines, who bound him in chains.

When my agent asked me to list the strengths I can develop to overcome my obstacles (addressed in my last blog), I realized how much I have in common with Samson. Yes, thirty years ago I thought I could conquer the world with my pen. No, I don’t know anyone named Delilah. Yes, I did cut my hair (having thinned over the years; wimped out).

The rest of me sometimes feels like my  hair; thinner, wimpish, and I’m not referring to my physical self. Years of struggles and difficulties and always reaching for that publishing goal and it always feeling just inches away has sapped my mental strength and resolve.

I have unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) cut myself down, and felt enslaved to the mundane tasks that have to be done over and over and over again.

Writing out my obstacles, then pondering the ways I can make them my strengths, has opened my mind and broken at least several links in my chain of discouragement and frustrations. I recommend that you write out your strengths and make that piece of paper a mirror, one that you reflect on each day, to help you grown. As for me, I’ll give up my answers here again in another rather bashful list and raw confession. If I can do it, so can you :)



1.) Obstacle–Lack of complete commitment (difficult to say no to daily demands without a contract in hand)

Strength– Self-validation. I need to stop comparing myself to other authors, and choose to have a career rather than      a wish.  I will create specific goals, and I give myself permission to fulfill my personal, artistic dream.  I need  to      accept that it blesses my family when I rise up and lead out in my life. I will work at the library, or in my office and not answer the phone. I will create specific goals for each project.

2.) Obstacle–Lack of money for marketing

Strength–Write my friend’s recent counsel my bathroom mirror, “You’ve done your share of volunteer work. It’s time you get paid.” (Made a specific list of current avenues for remuneration, and recognize it will take several years for them to come to fruition.)

3.) Obstacle–I over-think projects, mentally frenetic about all my (exciting) ideas.

Strength–Work in tandem with my agent on one story at a time, while keeping a folder on the other projects where I can make notes and then put them peacefully aside. I will promote myself in general, as an author, via The Writing Realm. I will consider becoming the “performing author” and give readings rather than storytelling and laboring to memorize my pieces.

I’m sure my list doesn’t make sense to anyone but me, and my agent (bless her heart). But I do hope that my little confessions here help you to realize what it’s taken me years to discover: We can be our own worst enemies or our own best friends. Do we mentally “cut” ourselves down, or, like Samson, as the song goes, look for love in all the wrong places? I need to square myself in front of a mirror and look myself in the eyes and say, “You’re OK.” I can’t count how many people have complimented my work and my performances, and yet here I sit with my agent’s questionnaire and still feel like I am not good enough.

So I finally and at last realize that I don’t need to write to prove myself; I write simply because I need to write, and because I have joy in the journey. I LOVE creative writing. Period. I want to be my own best friend, and be a friend to those I love best–which is just about every body I know ;).

And that is my greatest strength. I think it’s time to let my hair “grow,” (or should I say, let my hair down?) and live, truly live my journey as a writer!

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November 12th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

“Honor Yourself” –Career Makover Part 4

This is question number 4 on my career makeover sheet that my agent Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Agency gave me last summer.

What Obstacles are Present?

My answers:

1. Validation — without an immediate contract it feels selfish to say no to the daily, often “implied,” demands

2. Money–for marketing

3. Over-thinking my projects, letting my ideals get in the way of basic plans (wanting to wax the car before washing it)

a.) I need an artist before the Silly Yak Club gluten-free cookbook can proceed (written for children)

b.) I need a contract before I can market my books on-line (forgetting that I’m actually marketing myself)

c.) I am over-writing The Writing Realm, developing what was meant to be a handbook into a full-blown book.

4. Fatigue

Identifying my obstacles has helped me see them as stepping stones, especially when coupled with the next question on her list (my next post). While discussing my answers with her, she gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been blessed to receive: “Honor yourself.”

Have I been writing to prove myself? To increase my feelings of self-worth? To please my readers? To get the attention of editors for my new works?

If I were to dump all these fettering emotions and sincerely honor myself, what would I then choose to do?

(Since this meeting last summer I have rewritten my story-poem “Dragon Ice,” and am rehearsing it so I can contract with PAYO to perform it locally; I have spent somewhere around the tune of 100 hours reworking the overview presentation of “The Writing Realm”–which included finding and securing permissions to use artistic images for the slides–and I gave the presentation two weeks ago. I now have a small and delightful group of writers who want to take the workshop this spring. I am also working on One Hot Momma for Nanowrimo, just for the fun of it, just for a kick-start.

Since responding to this question, I have learned that every day I still have to hit the mental reset button–that I continually have to override my insecurities and over-idealism that’s apparently embedded in my cellular structure. But I’ve also learned how powerful a conscious plan of action, written down, in order of my importance, keeps my mental engine on track.

And I’ve learned to keep this one remark foremost in my mind, “Honor Yourself.”



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October 29th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

The Budget Crisis

Our nation is facing a debt crisis, and I have very little control over that. All I can do is vote responsibly and send messages to my representatives. The home-front is a different matter. Budgeting our personal finances can be challenging, but money and dollar figures are tangible pieces of paper or ink marks in ledgers. Time is a different matter altogether.

How do we budget time? Intangible, fleeting, and literally disappearing one blink at a time. It seems that as soon as we get into a pattern another obstacles is thrown up in our faces.

The third question on my agent’s Career Makeover was how much time will I budget toward my writing goals? My answer was 5 hours a day, 25 hours a week.

Yeah, she rolled her eyes, too.

I had that schedule once, when my youngest was in elementary school, my children in high school and college. Now my last child is in high school, so shouldn’t I have the day to myself? For my career?

Many years ago, when I was eight months pregnant with my third child, a neighbor, who was a struggling comedian, asked me how my writing was coming along. “I’m not writing,” I said, “I’m getting ready for the baby.” He pointed at me with two fingers and the cigarette pinned between them, and said, “A true writer knows her priorities.” To that I replied, “Then I guess I’m not a true writer because my children come first.”

He shrugged and walked away, mumbling, “I’m just saying . . . . ”

Three of my children are married now, and seemingly overnight I have two granddaughters and one on the way, and three granddaughters out of state with three grandsons on the way. When my two-year-old granddaughter comes knocking on the door calling, “Me-Maw!” I don’t cringe and wish I could keep writing. I bolt to the door and get a fuzzy pajama hug!

This past summer has brought surgery, emergency surgery, two miscarriages, and radiation treatment for my children (and my van broke down outside Yellowstone to the tune of $3,000 in repairs). So what about  my writing budget? What happened to my goal?

I’ve learned that there is no budget crisis when it comes to time: At midnight the account is at O, but one minute after it’s full again. And I’ve learned to be happy exactly where I am, with what I’ve chosen to do, enjoying the people I’m with, living life in the moment rather than the project.

AND I did crunch and get my creative writing presentation pulled together in time for the event last Saturday, and it went off smashingly. By so doing I finally figured out how to write the presentation in book format and got a jump on it.

AND I learned that even when I’m not sitting at my desk writing, I am be gleaning, sorting, connecting, and researching ideas for my books. How do we bring our books to life? By living life, and then capturing it on the page. One day at a time, everything in its season, and loving the journey.

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October 8th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Career Makeover, Part 2

My agent’s second question on her career makeover list:

“Who do I want to be? What is my primary genre/audience?”

My answer is:

I want to be known as the author of The Crying Chandelier, a book that changes the hearts and minds of readers on two continents. I want this book to be a work that sends chills up the spine and enlightens the mind. I want Carolyn and Zach (the main characters) to become a 21st Century Romeo and Juliette. I want to inspire  forgiveness over gratification, acceptance over prejudice, faith over fear–and to do it with fantastic, gripping stories, not sermons.

Front stage–I want to be known as CJ Dunham, the New Adult/Women’s fiction author, a leader in the art of genuine story-crafting (works that entertain, engage, and empower, as well as being refreshingly clean).

Back Stage–I want to publish my already written Children’s books under the name of Connie J. Martin. I want to be known for writing works for children that combine contemporary ideas with old school values–where a boy saves his village with kindness instead of a sword; where a mouse dances for the Queen but realizes her true happiness is with her family; where a Down Sybndrome girl teaches a valuable life lesson to her mother and sister; where a boy searches cross-country to retreive his sister’s stupid-good-for-nothing-ugly-cross-eyed mule that turns out to be smarter than he is . . . .

In The Wings–My fun and slightly fluffy romance novels. They would be a blast to write, laced with comedy, propelled by suspense. I want to write “clean yet passionate” romance.

I read this list to Terrie, who replied with an affirmative “OK.”

Did I want her approval? Permission? Redirection? I didn’t get it. I got genuine representation. It was difficult to define my work, and then to write it here. It feels like I’m shutting doors in my own face. What if I offend someone? What if I isolate myself from this set of readers or that?

I’ve learned that there is a difference between marketing and pandering. Between defining an audience and defining myself. Between offering and begging. Between being needy and being professional.

Ironically, I watched “Runaway Bride” last night, and like Julia Robert’s character I too needed to figure out just what kind of eggs I like; to define myself rather than looking to others to define me.  And I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Perhaps before we can authentically create our characters’ motives we need to see our own front and center, and decide if we want to embrace them or change them.

Terrie’s little career makeover turned into a personal one, too. And I think she knew that!  Obi Wan Kenobi said it best: “Focus, Luke. Focus, Luke!”

So if you were to answer Terrie’s question for yourself and your life goals, what would they be?

(Represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Agency)


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September 7th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Career Makeover– Part 1

As promised, I’m reporting back on my client/agent meeting. Filling out the “homework” my agent gave me turned out to be no easy task. The first request was the most difficult, prioritizing my work based on my my desire alone. It took several hours of introspection, but I finally let go of what I thought belonged at the top of the list, and typed out what I truly wanted to be there.

It was extremely validating to have my agent sit across the table and just listen as I explained my choices. I realized that she doesn’t simply want to represent my work, she believes in my heart. I am humbled to have such a person as my literary agent, and one of my dearest of friends.

Here’s my list:

1.) “Rabbana,” a religious piece I hope to perform one day

2.) The Crying Chandelier, the historical romance trilogy (being shopped)

3.) The Writing Realm, my creative writing presentation/workshop and book

4.) Taking Flight, a women’s romance (being shopped)

5.) The Silly Yak Club, Where the Fun Finally Begins!, my gluten-free cookbook for kids. However, its ranking is contingent upon finding a spokesperson/chef to join the venture.

My secret “loves” that I ache to work on:

1.) Thalen Lore, my science fantasy trilogy for women (rough draft completed)

2.) Jovan Wars, my fantasy trilogy for YA (outlined)

3.) My romance line for women (six concepts)

4.) Five Children’s stories (completed)

Terrie gave me a list of which publishing houses are reviewing the two completed mss, and we discussed the possibility of working with a fun-loving female chef she knows. I was amazed and elated when she informed me that my closeted works might actually be a good fit with several publishers.

I remember how hard it was, looking for an agent. I wrote queries, I wrote synopses, I checked my inbox every day for replies. For those of you who are writers, and who are trying to secure representation, I want you to know that being on the other side of the fence didn’t change my life. Sure, I have top editors reviewing my work but I still have no guarantees I’ll publish. We all want to be “discovered,” but I’ve learned that there is something of far greater value.

If I wrote my own fortune cookie revelation it would read, “Happiness doesn’t come in being discovered, it comes in discovering ourselves.” Fulfillment comes in setting realistic life-long goals. It can take years for new authors to break into the very tight and small publishing circle. It’s a journey, not a destination. And it’s a journey I make for myself; not my agent, not Simon Cowell.

The thrill of getting published is fleeting, but the deep-seated fulfillment of crafting an original story is forever. The first builds a reputation. The latter builds my very identity.

Whether or not you’re a writer, this little list of questions Terrie gave me (in the previous post) might be an exercise in self-discovery for you, too. Sure, I had goals, but I didn’t have them organized, finalized, or prioritized. I was moving fast–in circles. It’s a grand adventure to simply being moving forward, one realistic step at a time.




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August 20th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

The Geometry of Life

I have been frustrated, trying to gather forward momentum as an emerging author. Unfortunately, I’ve never been good at math or realizing its place in my career, namely how vital the principles of geometry are to my success. What on earth is the connection here? Well, one can’t gain forward momentum if one is turning circles! Or if one gets boxed in. And the shortest distance between two objects (or objectives, as the case may be) is a straight line. Yeah, I’m talking kindergarten math!

But I didn’t get it; didn’t figure out how to apply it in my life. Who needs geometry? Especially if one is a writer. I’m a words girl, man. I live by plot lines, not equations. I deal in denouements, not sums.

OK, so here’s my humble face, staring at the computer screen, confessing my fault. Math sets out to solve problems. Here is my problem:

I have four projects. It looks like this:

1 historical romance trilogy + 1 contemporary romance + 1 gluten-free cookbook for kids + one creative writing workshop/workbook = 4.

As in 4 walls. As in a box.

Problem: How to get out of box. Which one do I promote first? What’s my next project? How do I begin the follow-up book if I don’t know which one will sell first? Should I be performing my children’s stories? (oh, my agent just requested one of my children’s manuscripts, getting wind of interest in the market. Add that one to the list.) But working up stories to a performance level will take a healthy chunk of time. Should I invest my time instead on blogging about topics related to my trilogy? Should I try to write blogs that appeal to everyone in the known universe? Or just to writers? Or to romance readers? Or to celiacs? Should my write-up of “The Writing Realm” workshop be a mere handbook, or the full-blown book it’s turning out to be? Am I overwriting it? Underwriting it? I could give some cool speeches at local organizations on. . . . and do I need an agent or a psychiatrist?

Well, I definitely need my agent. The first two manuscripts are being shopped around as I write this (and FYI, it can take 6+ months to get a response from publishers).  My agent has a potential contact/spokesperson for the third, and I’m about to present the fourth. So what do I blog about? Ghosts, the psychology of love, the celiac experience, or the writing process?

I’m turning circles. Yeah, I know, the bummer of being a genius, right? ;) I lamented my predicament to an author friend. She wasn’t exactly sympathetic. “Some of us wish we had your problem,” she remarked. Seriously, too many ideas can be as debilitating as no ideas! What’s worse, having nowhere to go, or everywhere to go and getting nowhere?

So while having a rather lengthy chat with my agent, I asked her for the “right angle” on this problem. She scheduled me for a “makeover.” We’re meeting this Saturday to streamline my goals (yes, as in “line,” as in “straight line,” as in arrow). I thought I’d share my homework with you; the questions I have to have answered by then. If you’re also a writer, it would be a good evaluation for you as well. If you’re not a writer, well, it might serve you well, too. And I’ll let you know how the meeting goes!

Here’s to hoping I get everything in “line!”


Please have ready:

1) a prioritized list of your works

- what’s most important to YOU

- this isn’t about what anyone else wants. It’s about what you want.

2) who do you want to be?

- Because you write in several arenas, we need to identify which is most important now.

From there – first, second, third

3) What amount of time do you feel you are able to commit to this most important of items?

- 10 hrs. per week

- 20 hrs. per week

- 30 hrs. per week

- remember, there is no “right” answer. This is for you.

4) What obstacles are present?

5) What strengths can you develop to help overcome the obstacles?

6) To whom are you able to reach out?

7) What most empowers you at this point in time?

8) What least empowers you?

9) If only one of your works were to be published – and that were to happen a week from next Sunday – that work would be….

10) If you had to close the door on one of your works in order to open the door to another, which offered you great opportunity, that work would be…


Much love,



Terrie Wolf, Agent

AKA Literary, LLC

Office: 719-344-8794 | Direct: 719-339-0077 |Twitter: AKA_Terrie<>


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August 6th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Before and After

Last week I posted a poem I had written during my early teen years, intending to chronologically post a poetic piece up to current day. However, I am one of those women who likes to see the before and after makeover photos. Perhaps it is the same reason I love “My Fair Lady.” In many (if not most) great works of fiction the character undergoes a transformation.

I was musing the other day over my “before and after transformation” as a poet, and as a person. I wrote the following poem in one revelatory moment, intending it for my journal’s eyes only, but it does speak volumes about how important it is to be patient with ourselves; to allow time and experience to deepen and develop our perceptions, our relationships, our talents–and our very souls.

The first poem, “Night Fall,” is superficial, creating one-dimensional emotions. The following poem, “Amber,” startled me even as my hand scratched it out on the first sheet of paper I could find. Shocked, I read it over wondering “Where did that come from?”

My husband and I are very close. We have a love affair some might envy. But in the very core of my soul, some place deeper than sinew and marrow, surfaced a realization of how much I had emotionally been holding back–and how long genuine and complete trust in a relationship takes. I wrote this after 20 happily married years? Wow, true love really does take time; a lifetime.

And so, for better or for worse, here’s the “aftershot.”



 We are cocooned, you and I,

in our own separate worlds,


not in glass for display,

not in a coffin for decay,

but in amber

for self-preservation.

For years I’ve met you at the door,

throwing my arms around you,

but not—entirely—my heart.

You never met me at the door,

but have bought

my little favorites,

left silently on a shelf,

and with them

a piece of yourself.

I came to your side today

as you talked to a friend—

my temple tilted toward

your bearded face

as you slipped your arm

so freely around my back

and I felt your hand

grip my waist.

Although it was done


I knew what the

gesture meant:

you were claiming me.

So simple an act,

yet I can’t remember

ever feeling just that before—

the sum of

a thousand greetings

at the door.

And I couldn’t recall,

in all the love we’ve made

and spent,

had you done that before?

Have I not seen you


all these years

through my amber,

my encasement?

Though we’ve stood side by side,

could it be we’ve kept a

space      between our     hearts,

never fully willing

to confide the secrets in their

inner bleeding chamber-parts ?

And could it be

that after all of these

years of living together

we have kept our

 sacred selves

                                                in a shell?

And now suddenly,


a tremor rises

from my core

as your hand


my back






  c r a c k.

(by CJDunham)

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July 29th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Keeping A Promise

It’s been a summer of surgery, emergency surgery, and a vehicle breakdown that stranded us on vacation. Now, back home, as I settle back into a semi-normal routine, I realize that I have yet to keep my promise of posting some original work.

I’ve spent seven years creating, rewriting, cutting, rewriting, rewriting, rewriting…The Crying Chandelier trilogy. I then wrote a gluten-free cookbook for kids (as per my agent’s request), followed by a fluffy little romance.  So I don’t spend a lot of time writing poetry or short stories, at least none I consider publishable. But a promise is a promise, right? So how about a tour through the life of this novice poet? I’ll post some poems from my teen years and work my way up to my “post-teen”verses (hey, 50 is the new 15, right?).

So, just for the fun of it, here goes. . .


 I sit on the porch

watching cotton ships

floating in a sky of aquamarine,

wondering why I’m feeling

those old feelings,

leaving me so lost

and empty.

I watch the sun

fade from the sky,

melting my shadows on the steps

with its last orange ray.

The autumn leaves

tumble down the street

as the wind stirs them

and then just

blows them away.

I watch the moon

take its regal throne.

The sky bows at its feet

and lights up like stars

in a midnight sapphire.

A tear escapes my eye

as the wind flips my hair

and the memory fills my mind

as the moon, among its glitter,

rises even higher.

And the moon becomes a mirror

reflecting my face

that sparkles with tears

like those dancing

in their endless sea of blue.

I thought my heart

had finally forgotten,

but now I sit on the cold stone,

and I still cling

to the memory of



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June 5th, 2012 by CJ Dunham

Home is Where Your Story Begins

When I began this adventure, I thought I’d write about the magical, shocking, and poignant discoveries in my every day life. I thought I’d include posts like “The Squirrel Gargoyle,” capturing a time when I was kneeling in my bathroom, and I looked up out the picture window hoping to catch a glimpse of the last morning star. Instead, I saw a black form staring back at me! My heart jumped. There, crouched on the peak of the neighbor’s roof, was some thing watching me.  Squinting my eyes, I saw the outline of a–yes!–a bushy tail. It was a squirrel! It was both funny and macabre.

I thought I might write about the ice storm we had last spring, crystallizing the world as if with a magic spell. The roses were frozen, the trees were encased, and the grass was suspended in ice. It made for a chilling and visually poetic photo safari.

I had written little poems about the surprises I found in the cattails and sidewalk cracks; in the small but exquisite details I overlook in my harried life.

But my greatest surprise was that each article I wrote for my “Finding the Extraordinary…” column was about a family member. This won’t be applicable to my readers, I thought, but I couldn’t restrain myself. Why? Because they are the most extraordinary “things” in my life! More than anything else, they are the influences that enrich my very soul.

So to recap and to close this blog, I would like to reveal a hidden theme in this venture. For writers wondering where to find ideas (as I posed and partially answered in my first post for “Muse Tracks”), the answer lies in the title of this post. In my creative writing workshop, The Writing Realm, one of the first “stops” in the journey is at the mines. Where do we find those incredibly unique ideas–the raw material–for our stories? In our selves and our own lives.

For those who are readers, this applies to you, too. Because home is where your story begins. We should all write our personal memoirs and/or biographies. We should write little “posts” in our journals about the people in our lives. These are the stories that will resonate throughout generations. Imagine if my grandmother and great grandmother . . .  had written little vignettes, similar to the ones I posted. They would be more valuable to me than all the best sellers combined! They would be my personal Classics!

As for me, I have decided to spend more time doing what I do best and love most: writing novels, short stories, and poems. These are what I want to post. Instead of a weekly feed, I’d rather simply post my free work on my website page, and you can come and enjoy at your leisure.

Also, look for the release dates of my upcoming books the beginning of next year.

I am grateful for your interest in my words! Thank you for your comments.



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