Category Archives: Theo’s Mythic

Rhyme Time Be Mine


I love poetry, rhymes and any arrangement of words that makes them uplifting and singsongy, or forces my brain to find meaning in each and every verse. I’ve been making cards for my parents and loved ones for what seems like forever. I even applied for my dream job once as a card writer for Hallmark. Too bad they are located 1,500 miles away from me. Stupid logistics.

Anyway, because poems are such a huge part of my life, I wrote twenty-one of them for Theo’s Mythic. Ten as openers for the games Theo confronts, and eleven interspersed throughout the book to engage the reader on a deeper level. Because let’s face it, you can have a lot more fun and infuse oodles more intrigue into a poem than you can into a block of copy. Poems are like the word ninjas of the literary world, fraught with mystery, poise, precision, and a healthy dose of crazy. And I love me some crazy.

A poem that popped into my head after I decided to write a novel for kids is what jumpstarted the premise for Theo’s Mythic. I was fascinated with making the word “only” a surname (I also adore making up names, which will be covered in another blog post – with a cool title name) and hence the Onlys were born. I welcomed the Onlys into this world and introduced them to Theo’s Mythic readers with this poem:

Way up on that lonesome hill

Amongst the craggy trees

There sat a truly precious house

Frail and bent upon a breeze.


But in that house a wondrous light

A concert of formidable threads

All softened ethereal collected strands

That held it firm instead.


And in that house a fantastic world

Known alone to those who dream it

The few, the far, the in between

Are the Onlys who get to see it.


Only the ones that believe in their head

That all things are possible still

Only the ones with imaginary friends

Earn their passage to that hill.


The Onlys are perfect

The Onlys are smart

Only the Onlys

Follow their heart.

So fun! And the poem begs the questions, “Who are the Onlys?” “Why are they so smart?” “Where is that awesome house?” and finally, “What the heck does craggy mean?” Is craggy even a word?

Shel Silverstein is a poetic genius and Dr. Seuss certainly knew what he was doing and was the master of whimsical rhyme. Dr. Seuss is one of my all time favorite literary ninjas because he would skewer every word that didn’t have a rhyming partner by making one up – bam! Boy oh boy could he make up the most farcical words, too. Case in point, “shorth” – which, according to Dr. Seuss, “Shorth is better than length.” Short for shortened length – so shorth plays the part beautifully. Curtain close.

Here is another poem from Theo’s Mythic – one of my favorites:

An Only’s clarity frees his mind

Sinking imprints beneath the rind

Removing thoughts of no use or weight

Impressing knowledge to complete a fate

Like a lightning scorch mark on the ground

Like water finding its way around

Not knowledge deferred or misaligned

But truth be told and ideas be mine.

For example, “Like water finding its way around,” means that nothing was getting in the way of Theo absorbing the information he was destined to know. Knowledge would be his as soon as he cleared his mind of all the extra baggage he didn’t need.

Poems are like crafting a well-built house out of carefully selected sticks. By piecing each one together flawlessly, you have constructed not only a place to live, but also a work of art. Verses on canvas that take hold of the beholder and draw them into a deeper and more magical level. The art of the rhyme is like no other because, whether you intend it or not, your brain goes into instinctual meter mode and the pulse of the words click through to a conclusion automatically. A lyrical ride for your senses.

So while Hallmark doesn’t allow telecommuting, I’ve chosen the path of novels to give my poems a home…way up on that lonesome hill, amongst the craggy trees.


Follow me! said the Pied Piper –

Like me! said the Fear of No Audience Complex –

The Business of Me

Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. That’s what I feel like these days. Now that I’m trying to put my cubicle life behind me, I’ve entered into The Business of Me. Or, in other words, I spend my days anchored to a boat called, Self-Promotion. It’s pulling myself up and getting that damn boat out of the mooring that is proving to be the challenge.

I constantly remind myself to stay humble. I’ll never get to the saintly level of Mother Teresa, but I try really hard to keep myself in check. The do-good voices rattling about in my cranium will attest to that fact, as well as the angel that sits on my shoulder and whacks me in the head from time-to-time with her perfectly polished halo. So, can a person striving to live a humble life self-promote themselves effectively, or even at all?

On the one hand, I worry that I’m making a menace out of myself on Facebook and Twitter, and in every conversation I have with family, friends and acquaintances that comes around to talking about my book. On the other hand, I have to be “out there.” Living, breathing and talking my way into people’s hearts and minds. Making myself stick, without being unwontedly stuck.

Some moments make the self-promoting all worthwhile; like when a mom tells me her son absolutely loved Theo’s Mythic and can’t wait for the next book in the series. And then some moments, like when I email someone repeatedly to see if their child liked the book and I hear crickets, I feel like a self-promotional nuisance. A literary leech. Much like an unsolicited vacuum salesman standing at your door begging for a chance to come in – I’m worried both I and the vacuum are going to suck.

“You need tougher skin,” is what I tell myself. So somedays I skip the moisturizer in pursuit of calluses that will protect me from – what? The truth? Actually, no. I need to protect myself from people’s opinions and accept the fact that while some folks might adore the book, some just won’t get it. Factors could include the child’s age, genre likes, love/hate relationship with reading, or any number of things that I have absolutely no control over.

Now back to The Business of Me. Step 1: Write a blog post about said subject. Step 2: Use it as a cathartic experience. Step 3: Move the hell on.

In closing I’d like to share my mission statement for my new business. It reads as follows:

Here at The Business of Me we strive to effectively promote and establish a global understanding of the abilities we offer to our clients. We shall constantly worry about being too “in your face,” but will put ourselves in your face, nonetheless, in the sincere hope that you’ll like what you see. We will forever promote the written word as something to be cherished by children, as well as bring smiles to their faces. And due to our membership in the human race, we will write for a kinder, lovelier, more beautiful world. Because we’ve found that The Business of Me just happens to be…also about You.



As I’ve written in past blog posts, my epiphany to write a book and the words that ensued came quickly and easily. The publishing part, well, did not.

Originally I went the traditional route: I sent query after query to literary agents I was sure would not only be the perfect fit, but also welcome me and Theo’s Mythic with open arms. Each one gushing at my expert writing ability and fighting for a chance to be “the one”. Not.

Side note: I am, and always will be, an eternal optimist.

After some very nice, “No thanks, your book isn’t quite right for my list at this time” replies, I started looking into self-publishing. Was it because I felt defeated, like this was my only option? No. I actually fell into it and realized it gave me something I was yearning for – a chance.

There were a few things I wanted to accomplish with my book and I was blessedly able to bring them to fruition via self-publishing:

  • Use my own illustrator. I wanted to use Jeff Hopkins, because he is a childhood friend and is extremely talented. I knew he would be the perfect fit and I wanted control over defining my mind’s creations onto paper. I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he could do that for me.
  • Write the way I envisioned the words to fall onto the page from day one. I wanted to use words that would challenge today’s commonplace vernacular, and use a non-linear format that would engage and make children’s brain cells work for the reward. I wanted to hand them a great book; a book that would give them the satisfaction of putting all of the pieces together by themselves. Go kids!

Those are the pluses, here is the minus:

  • I’m having a hard time reaching the masses. So now that I’ve accomplished my goals above, I’m seeking a literary agent to help me with the task of getting my book into the hands of many more children via a larger publishing house. Some agents are open to working with self-published titles and some are not. Literary agents are on the fence with this whole new world, and those who have embraced the possibility of the next “big thing” being a self-published title, are the open-minded and truly optimistic folks I’m looking for. I liken it to choosing a toy license. I used to work in licensing at Hasbro and will never forget the day I was watching a hit TV show in the UK for consideration in the US as a toy license. It baffled me. But my wonderful boss and mentor at the time said, “You don’t need to like it or even understand it, the kids do.” I was watching Teletubbies.

So where is the next great book going to come from? Everywhere. There will be titles that go the traditional route, some that come by way of internet exposure, and some that bubble to the surface of the self-published pond.

Again, being an eternal optimist, I am forever grateful that self-publishing gave me the chance. Now I’m hoping my literary agent is sitting on the shore waiting for my bubble to appear.




“Not this time. As soon as she forced the vision out of her head, all of the surrounding air, time, light, and sound bent in space at once, forming a celestial wormhole that encased the DarkDwellers in one massive eruption of her mind.” – Theo’s Mythic

This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. Why? Because it shows how one previously-believed-to-be-flawed character, a Happenstance, has amazing potential. The Happenstances in my book are loosely based on my two nieces; profoundly disabled from birth, yet profoundly spectacular in redefining what it is to live a life.

Happenstance means: a circumstance especially that is due to chance. My nieces are undiagnosed and perceived to be “flawed” by many narrow-minded individuals. They cannot walk or talk. But to me, a life is not defined by what you cannot do, rather, it is the potential within – whether it be latent or obvious. It isn’t packaged in a form you are used to seeing, but make no mistake about it – the spark is there.

Here are a few examples of the life my nieces have lived and what they have breathed into my “normal” world. Essences I would have never inhaled had I not been blessed with all that they are.

  1. Love comes in many forms. We have never heard either one of them say, “I love you”.  And yet, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the love that emanates from their souls is felt deeper than any three words uttered by mouth could ever communicate.
  2. Beauty abounds. Beauty is not defined by perfect makeup, hair swept into undulating waves, or the must-have designer label meant to elevate and transcend the ordinary. True beauty can be found in their smiles. Wholly uplifting – and sometimes mischievous – grins, that are equal to all the joy in the world captured in two magnificient faces.
  3. They are strong. Looking at them all you might see are two weak bodies relegated to wheelchairs; robbed of the potential of perfectly developed muscles, skin, and bone. Yet they have survived grueling therapies, a near-death experience (still classified to this day as “a miracle” by all doctors), and multiple surgeries – one of which left them in body casts from the chest down for two months. So to look at them as weak is to say that the ocean has no greater purpose than to lick the shore. The mighty ocean and my mighty girls have much more strength in them than that.

While the Happenstances in my book are created by lightning, we don’t know by what “chance” my beautiful nieces came to be. They were created out of love, that much I know.  The Happenstances in Theo’s Mythic speak in a manner not in keeping with an adult, but they speak volumes with the warmth, love, and care of a thousand mothers. They are not air-brushed, modified, or reshaped into the perfect ideal of beauty, they are naturally glorious. And although they were created by chance, they bear strength and fortitude to become an extraordinary part of their world – of our world.

So the next time you see a disabled person, look to their core, their gifts…to the happenstance that brought them to us. Don’t spit them out, breathe them in. Their life will teach you more about living than any amount of years or experience ever will. While chance was the catalyst, they happened for a reason.


7-16-15 UPDATE

Last week, my amazingly soulful and giggly niece, Abby, was called away to Heaven. Why? There is never an adequate answer, is there? My heart breaks for her incredible parents and all who loved her. However, it is with full conviction that my heart does not break for her.

To know Abby was to learn that “different” meant extraordinary; that a disability only meant out of the norm and not disabled. My heart is full knowing that she is finally able to realize what it is to walk amongst friends and loved ones, respond to a kind word with her own words, and feel unrestricted movement in every facet of her being. To be free.

We often say that about someone we have lost – that they are at peace and are now free. To Abby, these sentiments carry much more weight than we boringly normal people could ever know. Her transition means so much more than we could ever understand. And her life means so much more to those of us left behind because of who and what she was – special.

Special needs often defines children like Abby. Sure, she needed certain alternative accommodations, but the special needs definition was for us as well – because she was special and we needed her in our lives. In fact, there should be more Abbys in the world. Too often we get focused on the negative; we make mountains out of our of minuscule problems; and we see the good in a cursory manner, but actually pay attention to the bad. I needed Abby and all of her specialness – which I could eat with a spoon – to teach me about what is right in the world and where the priorities ought to be, not where society tells us they should be. Simply put, she set me free.

We will never be the same. Some days I just want to punch something at the unfairness of it all – and some days I thank God for making the right choice for her, even though it was the difficult one for us. Her life and death were altogether amazing and heartbreaking – and one day I pray I get to hear her giggle again. Just one little laugh to know that all is right in this world. Until then, we’ll smile for her as we remember not what we have lost, but what we have gained, an angel.



Hello? Kids?

ImageI have to say, I am quite social media savvy. That is, if I’m talking to adults. It is a primary part of my day job and I [stupidly] thought it would translate seamlessly to my night job as an author. An author who has penned a book for kids. For kids. One more time…for kids. Who are ten to twelve years old. Do you see my problem? If not, let me explain…

Sure, I’ve been working the social media channels whenever I get the chance; specifically to attract moms and dads – those with influence over my target market. I’ve blessedly made some inroads in rallying the cause of trying to help another mom realize her dream. However, 9 times out of 10, they aren’t the folks reading the book, their child is. So if their child LOVES it, that’s nice, but it more often than not ends there. No word of mouth, no Facebook posting, no Twitter shout-out, no messages blowing up their peeps phones, and no five star reviews on Amazon. Nada, nothing, bupkis.

And the sad part is…I’m DYING to talk to them. Which characters did they like? What did they think of the Monstrosities? Do they think Theo was asleep or awake the whole time? Did they see the twist coming? On and on. Oh sure, I’ve pressed my sons, niece and nephews ad nauseam, but they KNOW me. Don’t get me wrong, their feedback has been invaluable, but I’d love an unbiased chat with a bunch of kids. So much so, I’m going straight to the big guy and have officially put it on my Christmas list. In fact, here is my letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,

Growing up with the last name Rudolph has certainly had its pluses and minuses. Being part Irish, the red nose thing was inevitable (and unfortunate at times.) I powered through, though, and have come to love my name and all that it represents. In fact, it is very deer to my heart.

However, I digress. I am writing because I am now a full fledged adult per my driver’s license and I only want one thing for Christmas – to hear the voices of children who have read my book. To hear their gleeful songs rise up like the Whos in Whoville to a crescendo atop Mt. Crumpit. To see a sparkle in their eyes, their jumpy squirrel bouncing as they retell their favorite part, and their imaginations catch on fire as they play act each and every scene.

Rudolph has seen you through many a storm to brighter skies. I only hope you have it in your big velvet bag to repay the favor to his humble namesake. Please, let me hear the children.


Cindy Rudolph Barlow

P.S. If you have time to throw world peace in there as well, that would be awesome.

As I sit here staring at my Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Amazon listing, I do so all the while refreshing my browser like a lifelong gambler pulling on a slot machine handle. No triple cherries and no coins pouring forth onto the floor like an endless stream of validation.

So kids, if you are looking for me, please tell me how to play hide and seek. Until I can find my way out of the “ain’t got no feedback” paper bag, know that I’m just sitting here waiting on Santa, hoping that he REALly is all that and a bag of presents. And that he’ll deliver your thoughts to me with a big red bow.

That, or your parents see this blog post and decide to get you a Facebook account based on my plight. For that you can thank me later with a “hey, girl!” direct message and a page like. But only after I’ve asked you a billion questions about the book. And possibly five more questions after that.


Are You Smart?


What defines intelligence? Is it your GPA, IQ score, or merely the fact that you can find your way out of a paper bag with ease? Is it that you know a lot about a little or know a little about a lot? I have thought long and hard about this, simply because I’m saddened by seeing folks be so mean and disrespectful to each other on social media platforms, all in the name of extolling how smart they think they are. And because, to me, kindness outweighs intelligence. So I have a theory on intelligence – or being informed as I prefer to call it. (That is why being “Informed” plays such a big part in Theo’s journey in my book.)

In order to be informed, you need three things: 1) exposure, 2) understanding, and 3) retention.

1) Exposure – unless you have seen, heard or felt it, you wouldn’t know about it. So next time someone doesn’t know what a word means that is commonplace to you, don’t roll your eyeballs and tell them, “How dumb can you be?” Because [gasp] they might have never heard the word before it came out of your mouth. Instead, re-explain what you mean in simpler terms so that they can learn from you. Lift them up.

2) Understanding – I can teach you all day long about the theory of relativity, but if you don’t have the mental capacity to understand what I am teaching you, then you won’t learn it. Everyone’s brain is built a little bit differently. One person may excel at math, while another is excellent at history. Does it make the math person stupid at history or the history person stupid at math? I sure hope not, because then that would mean I’m an absolute idiot at math.

3) Retention – So I spent all day teaching you about the theory of relativity, and while you understood it long enough to take the test and ace it, you forgot all about it in a few years because you went on to be an English scholar, get married and have three beautiful children. Information relative to your everyday life started to imprint on the brain cells previously dedicated to the theory of relativity. Which, ironically, makes intelligent relative, no? So if you were able to retain the information at one point and then not now, does that make you smart then and stupid now? Nah.

That is the beauty of our world. The fact that each of us operates and understands things differently is what adds diversity to our lives. So next time you get annoyed at someone who doesn’t think like you, remember they might be able to school you on how to grow a successful vegetable garden. And if you think they don’t know anything more than you do, then remember that arrogance is uglier than ignorance.

As mentioned, I’ve thought about this more and more lately as I’ve seen examples of one person calling out another on their ignorance. And as I read through my book again and again and see mistake after mistake, I cringe. But then I realize something basic, something important, and something that levels the playing field for all of us – I’m human. Yes, folks, I make mistakes. And I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. More importantly, I will continue to learn and become more informed for the rest of my life as well. If someone wants to point out that I’ve used a semi-colon improperly; (whoops, there it is!) please do so – kindly. I don’t know it all and want to learn more. I want to better myself everyday and inspire those around me to do the same.

Where do I net out on all of this? I think it is more important to be kind than smart – or right. WHOA, STOP THE PRESSES! So am I saying we should give up on grammar, algebra, and the like? Of course not, because that would be stupid. Rather, I believe if we all helped, taught in an inspiring way, and opted for a positive vs. a negative spin on our interactions with others, then we would be in a better place. A place where we can all be smart.


Big Words, Little Minds

ImageWhen I set out to write, Theo’s Mythic, I knew two things. The first would be that the book would contain words that kids would have to look up. [Gasp!] The second thing was that it would be a non-linear narrative because kids think in random tangents. For example, a five second conversation with one of my children could run the gamut of, “Look ma, a squirrel!”, “There’s a ball!”, “Where’s the art project with the penguin I made last year?”, “How many M&M’s do you think I can fit in my mouth?” and so on. Therefore, the characters and storyline weave and bend, to and fro, but then all converge at the end. Just how a child thinks.

As for the first thing, the “big words”: A few people have questioned if the use of them was a wise decision. Does that make for good commercial fiction? Would the words be problematic? To which I reply, “So if a teacher gave you a math problem you didn’t understand, that would be the end of it?” My goal is to teach and challenge children to be so much more. Learning the word enigma is just as easy as learning its synonym, mystery. In fact, it is one letter shorter, so really the big word, by way of letter count, is actually – mystery. So why the word enigma is considered the big word is a mystery to me.

As mentioned in a previous post, my father would make me look up every word I came across that was not familiar. He would also use big words in routine conversation. In fact, many of my favorite moments with him began with, “Do you know what that word means?” Like one day in particular – we were standing in the yard of my first house while he explained what a deciduous tree was. I’ll never forget that moment, or the evergreen pine that prompted the conversation that I wouldn’t have to worry about raking leaves in the front yard.

Big words get a bad rap and kids are smarter than just sitting around to watch Jane run – in a straight line. And to be quite honest, some big words are just so fun to say, like, obtuse. Obtuussse. Fun, no? How about supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus? Ok, so maybe that isn’t an official word, but Mary Poppins sure knew how to have a whole lotta fun! And if a word with 33 letters can be learned and roll off the tongue, then any word can.

As part of the teaching process, I tried to put the word into context, so that the rest of the sentence or paragraph would lend itself to explaining the word or words used. After all, I don’t want to totally disrupt the reading flow every two seconds with, “We pause this reading for an important dictionary look-up.”

So do I think little minds can handle big words? Yes, I unequivocally do.