Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Review- The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd ed. January 27, 2019

Millions of people want to write books. A few of them will actually start writing. A few of those will finish writing.  If you’re stranded between starting and finishing, sadly aware that you’re missing something, then Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi could be your salvation.

Ackerman and Puglisi have created a series of thesauri that help writers develop powerful, engaging characters and settings.  These non-traditional tools can help a writer find new angles, depth, and vocabulary for what they want to convey.   I have a few of them, both for my personal reference and for my creative writing classes.  I was delighted with the opportunity to see their latest release, in exchange for a fair review.

The latest tool in the arsenal is a re-vamp of the first thesaurus.  The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition has almost doubled the first edition.  There are articles on how and why to use various emotions, as well as 55 more emotions to examine.

The articles are clear and easy to apply.  I will be using “Emotion and Dialogue” with my creative writing students.

Each emotion entry provides

  • a definition
  • a long list of physical signals and behaviours of the emotion in action
  • internal responses to the emotion
  • mental responses to the emotion
  • acute or long-term impacts of the emotion
  • signs that the emotion is being suppressed
  • where it may escalate or de-escalate
  • power verbs associated with the emotion.

Now, sure, you would probably be able to figure out a lot of these areas if you contemplated long and hard, but more likely you’d settle for the first few things that occured to you, and miss a variety of points that would add depth to your characterization.  While you were thinking, you wouldn’t be writing more on the story.

When you find a sign of an emotion that you’d never considered, and it gives you new directions  at the same time, you’ve struck gold.  It leads to plot points you may not have considered. I will make good use of this book.

The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd edition is a valuable tool to help writers save time, develop depth, and learn more about their characters.  Highly recommended for your writers’ toolbox!

Visit their website to explore the entry for schadenfreude as an example of what you can expect.

You can buy The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd ed. at the usual sites.  If you use the link at left, I earn a bit as an Amazon Affiliate.



poem-ready December 31, 2014

She’s reached the end of her rope

and she’s swinging hard,

pumping her legs for maximum height,

fury fueling her flight.

She’s aiming for the edge

she’s leaping into space

and she’s grabbing on the way down.

When she lands,

she’s crushing injustice beneath her feet.

and throwing up her hands,

in victory.



Been editing tonight.  Just getting to the end of the story, when the downtrodden heroine seizes power… 😉


poem- doorbell June 17, 2014

Sleeping in

enjoying dream embraces

of a book boyfriend when

the doorbell rings

with delivery of the next instalment

in the relationship.



saxy poem April 18, 2013

Filed under: Grace Awakening Myth,Poetry,Writing — Shawn L. Bird @ 11:50 am
Tags: , , , , ,

The bari-sax

is very sexy.

Those low




to your soul

and grind around

in your groin. 

I love




This is culled from a bio piece about the Grace Awakening Myth character Ryan, who plays sax.  You may have noticed that Ryan is a little obsessed with sex, as well.


Bio: Crystal Visions of Rainbows April 17, 2013

At the Vernon Writers’ Conference this past weekend, author Patricia Donahue encouraged participants to create biographies for our characters.  She uses cards for this purpose and makes point form notes.  I decided to explore ‘background info’ on the character of Christie by letting her speak for herself.  This won’t be in a book, but it tells us interesting things about her, and how she got her job watching Grace.  Enjoy!


My name is Crystal Visions of Rainbows.

It’s stupid.  I know. 

On the first day of kindergarten everyone laughed at me when they heard it.  Everyone except Grace.  She came and sat beside me on the circle time carpet and whispered, “That’s the prettiest name I ever heard.”  I adored her from that moment, of course.

As I’m sure you can imagine, anyone who names her kid Crystal Visions of Rainbows is a hippy.  Free love.  Peace not war.  Tie dye and joints.  Yup.  My mother.  Her real name was Martha Grimes but she changed it to Earth Helper.  Sometimes it is an absolute mortification to have parents.  

She did one good thing, though.

One day, in her communing with the goddess through some psychedelic haze, she got me a job.  I was assigned to watch Grace. 

Watching, in this case means knowing who Grace’s friends are, how she’s feeling about things, and helping her out in simple ways.  In other words, I was hired to be her best friend.  I would have been her best friend, anyway.  Theoretically I’m paid for this, but I don’t know if it’s in drachmas, gold, or good karma.  Mother looks after the finances and any of those would be good enough currency for her. Myself, I don’t ask.

My brother Shane is lucky.  Somehow he was excused from the expectation that he be a flower child.  Shane (birth name, Sky Rider) is now aiming to be a corporate lawyer.  Mother rolls her eyes, and is relieved when he assures her that he votes Green.  It’s a small consolation. 

With his abdication of the family burden to save the world, all the weight of expectation falls on me.  Hence the bargain with a goddess.

When I was about twelve, I decided that my mom had been hallucinating the whole thing, and I put my foot down.  No more spying on my best friend and leaving written reports in the silver bowl on the dining room table.  There’d be no more of this crap about goddesses and duty and obligation.

But then the goddess showed up and introduced herself, and what could I do?

It was Friday after school.  I was going to be meeting Grace in a couple of hours, so we could go see a movie.   I walked in the door and there was this woman sitting in my living room.

My mother was nowhere to be seen.  Shane was at some debating practice at school.  I froze.

“Who are you?  What are you doing in my house?”

She smiled and extended a beautifully manicured hand, “Hello.  You must be Crystal Vision of Rainbows.”

I scowled. “My name is Christie.”  I didn’t take her hand.

“Have a seat.” She indicated the chair opposite the one she’d been in.  “We need to talk.”

I crossed my hands and stared at her.  “I don’t think we do,” I’d said, and turned to leave.  I was going to the neighbours to call the police.  I took a step forward and froze, my right foot stuck in the air.  I couldn’t move.

“Actually,” she drawled, “we will.  Have a seat, child.”

Completely against my will, my body pivoted and carried me to the chair.  “Hey!”  I tried to fight it, but I had absolutely no control.  “Who are you!  What are you doing!”  My hands folded themselves demurely on my lap.  Inside I was thrashing, but outside I was quiet and calm.  It was like being wrapped in an invisible strait jacket. 

“Crystal Visions of Rainbows, I am pleased to meet you at last.  I am Aphrodite.”

I gaped at her.  “The Aphrodite?”

She inclined her perfectly coiffed head in assent.  “The Aphrodite.  Your mother told you about me, of course?”

“I read,” I grunted.  Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love (beautiful, vain, used to getting what she wanted) was sitting in my living room in a perfectly tailored, spotless white suit.  Her hair was twisted into a chignon.  Scarlet toe nails peeped from shoes made of satin brocade.  No blouse was visible; the suit jacket displayed her cleavage in suggestive, if not provocative, style.

She nodded, “Very good.  You know that you have been in my employ for several years.”

I started to speak but she raised her hand, and my mouth wouldn’t open.

“Your work the past few years,” she continued, “has been exemplary, and I have been pleased with your efforts.  Recently, however, I have observed that you are growing dissatisfied with our agreement.  This is not acceptable.  You have an obligation.  You must follow through with it.”

I tried to speak, but it doesn’t really work when your jaw is clamped tightly closed.

She flicked her index finger through the air and my body returned to me.  “Speak,” she said imperiously.

“She is my friend.  I don’t want to spy on her.  What will she say when she knows that her best friends is spying on her!  She’ll hate me!”

Aphrodite nodded, “Very likely.  What would you feel like if she were to die because you were not spying on her.  Would that be better?”  Her brows were raised in calm inquiry.

“What?”  I stared at her.  “That’s ridiculous.”

“It is not.  Why would we have someone watching her if she were not in danger?  You are a key reason she is still alive, and make no mistake, the older Grace is, the more danger she is in.”

“Really?” I squeaked.

She inclined her head.  “Your job is vital to Grace’s survival.  Are you enough of a friend to keep her safe, even if it is a secret that you are doing so?”

“What’s so important about her?”  Grace was just a regular kid.  Uncoordinated, silly, crushes on boys, not great at PE, not great at music, not great at math, but good enough at everything, and pleasant enough that she got along with everyone, kids and adults alike.

“If I told you, I would have to kill you,” Aphrodite deadpanned.

Or maybe she was serious.

At my incredulous look she laughed daintily, in a contained, fake sort of titter.  “She is important to me.  I would like her alive.  Your job is to continue to file reports through your mother…  What?”  She’d intercepted my rolled eyes and tilted her head.  “You don’t trust your mother?”

“My mother is a nut job.”  I love her, but she is.  She’s into all the quackery of tarot cards, crystal gazing, tuning into her qi, and all that.  She’s fervent, and loving, and fun, but she’s a nut.

“Your mother is attuned to me.  It is not your place to question your mother’s role in this.  Your place is to obey, and in so doing, to keep your friend alive.  Can I trust you to return to your duty?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said quietly, looking down at my feet.

“Excellent.  I look forward to your next report, Crystal Views of Rainbows.”

“My name is…”

“Yes.  I know.  Do you understand the power of your name?  You see clearly.  You divide simple facts into a spectrum of understanding, like a crystal divides colours into a spectrum, or rain divides light into a rainbow.  You see beauty and create beauty.  Your name is a declaration of your true self.  You should not deny it.”

I sighed.  “Can’t you call me Christie?”

She laughed that contained titter again.  “If I remember.  We are in agreement, then? You will report?”

I nodded.

“Very good.  Farewell then.”  She rose in an elegant unfolding, stepped into the centre of my living room, and (I swear to god!) vanished in a slice of light, as if she’d stepped through a curtain from a dark room into a brilliant one.

I sat staring at the spot.  I was twelve, but I suddenly felt as if I’d grown up.  I was doing great and important things, even if no one else knew about them.  I was a hero, keeping my best friend safe.  I smiled to myself and inclined onto the couch, pondering what else my mother might be right about.


(As a bonus, I can count this in CampNaNoWriMo word count.  I’m in desperate need of the 1200 words!  I have been seriously distracted by poetry this month).


I don’t want leave these characters yet… November 8, 2012

Filed under: Reading — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:57 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Page after page I let the spell of the story and its world take me over, until the breath of dawn touched my window and my tired eyes slid over the last page.  I lay in the bluish half-light with the book on my chest and listened to the murmur of the sleeping city.  My eyes began to close, but I resisted.  I did not want to lose the story’s spell or bid farewell to its characters yet.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s Shadow of the Wind p. 15

This is true about really great books that we read, but also in writing them.  Which is good, actually, because if you don’t want to leave them, you keep writing.  It keeps you motivated.  Of course, it might mean you write forever and never finish as well…

NaNoWriMo day 8: 686    (Total: 11,288 )


Pearl of great price February 21, 2011

The final character to explore from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is Pearl.  Of course, much has been written about the obvious point that Pearl represents the Biblical “pearl of great price” because Hester loses everything on her account.  What I don’t see explored are some deep issues around that Biblical reference or some other issues around her name.

A pearl is an excellent symbol for a secret, because a pearl is a hidden irritation that is slowly transformed. The pearl becomes a ball that emerges from the flesh of the oyster.  When revealed the pearl is a thing of beautiful rarity.  Hester’s body would have been transformed as Pearl blossomed in her belly and exposed the sin.  When choosing the name, Hester chose to acknowledge Pearl as a treasure and accepted the transformation of her life.  She seems to welcome the isolation and notoriety that results, celebrating her difference from the rest of the community.

Hester also chose to protect the identity of Pearl’s father.  A pearl is hidden inside the oyster and no one knows whether it is there.  Thus, Pearl represents the secret of her father’s identity.  Today, he could be found by genetic testing, but Pearl would have to give her genes in order to reveal the identity.

The Bible quotation is a short one. Matthew 13, verses 45 and 46 reads     “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”  (New International Version).   Consider this: 1. the merchant purchases this treasure, and the purchase is what determines its value.  2. the kingdom of heaven is represented in this transaction.

Is Hester symbolic of the kingdom of heaven because she has made the sacrifice for this pearl? Or is Pearl symbolic of the kingdom of heaven because she is purchased at great sacrifice?  Both concepts are worthy of exploration.  What microcosm of heaven is found in Hester and/or Pearl?  The fundamentalists Calvinists represented by the Puritans believed in pre-destination, in other words, from the beginning of time God has known who will or will not make it into heaven. This philosophy makes reward and punishment seem a trifle perverse, since there is nothing the individual can do to improve his or her spiritual condition.  Thus, Hester was conceived with Pearl as an inevitable sacrifice and the weight of Dimsdale’s and her sin.  Does their respective independence, insolence, disrespect for authority, love of beauty, and unrepentence reflect the kingdom of heaven?  Hmm.  There is an entire essay waiting to be written on just this concept. (If you write it, put a link to it in a comment, below!)

A pearl is an expensive ornament, and Hester works very hard to ensure Pearl is a showy ornament in the dreary community.  Puritans do not believe in ornamentation.  Pearl was destined to be set apart from the other children simply due to her parentage.  If she is going to be set apart, Hester seems to have reasoned, then she might as well celebrate the difference.

A pearl is also the most delicate of precious stones.  One can easily crush a pearl underfoot.  Rough treatment does little to damage a diamond or a ruby, but will destroy a pearl.  Pearls are supposed to be kept isolated from other jewelry in soft bags to avoid being scratched or damaging their glowing lustre.  They can not be cleaned with caustic substances or they are destroyed (one suspects Puritan life was rather caustic with all that fire and brimstone).  Hester seems to believe that Pearl is a sweet gentle creature beneath the aggression that she shows to others.  The aggression confuses her.  Is Pearl really as delicate as her name implies or is her mother’s treatment what makes her unable to fit into her society?  From her clothes to her attitude to her living arrangements Pearl is intentionally set apart.  Should one not anticipate a creature who does not fit in as a result?  Is Pearl really delicate or is she the firey creature intimated by her wild behavior?

One further thought:  we never hear her full name spoken, but consider the sound of the name “Pearl Prynne.”   The double aspiration of these single syllable words is like an exclamation of derision.  It makes a rather effective taunt.  Consider also some homophones for Pearl Prynne.  Puritan is one. Why would her name echo her community’s and her father’s faith? How about Purim– when the Jews were saved from a genocide by Queen Esther’s appeal to King Darius?  Who does Pearl save? (or attempt to save?) Or purlin– the beam that supports rafters in a roof.  Does Pearl support anyone? Or purlieu  a place on the edge, once set aside for royalty but now available for common use.  How does Pearl allow others to go through into royal (heavenly?) lands?  Or pyrethrum– a poison derived from chrysanthemums.  How is Pearl a poison within the community or within the lives of her parents?  Each of these homophones invites further exploration of symbolic connection to Pearl.

I’ve given you lots of complex things to consider when you analyze Pearl Prynne.  Which ones particularly resonate with you?

(c) Shawn Bird.

Students, to avoid plagarism please cite this source as follows:

Bird, Shawn.  Pearl of great price.  Collected (insert date you copied your notes).

See analyses of other characters from The Scarlet Letter.



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