Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Gettin' Down

Found this photo of me at twenty-eight and I stopped to marvel at my ability to squat down next to my youngest child of four in her stroller (you can't really see her, but she's there). Based on clothing, etc., I imagine this was taken in the fall of 1978... a little while ago. I can't imagine getting into that position now.

My knees pop when I bend. My hip joints protest in no uncertain terms. Nah... I don't get down like that anymore unless I'm in a swimming pool.

But ya know? It's good to have proof that I COULD do it once upon a time...

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Weekend

Properly speaking, Memorial Day Weekend is to honor all the men and women who've lost their lives in the service of our country. But for me, it's also a weekend that reminds me of the day I lost my mother 57 years ago. A few moments before midnight on May 29, she died in a car accident on a lonely starlight rural road in New Mexico. I was ten years old then.

This picture is about what she looked like when she died. At the time, from my childish perspective I thought she was old...not as old as my grandparents, of course, but OLD. It was only when I approached the age of 31 myself that I realized just how young she was.

So today I remember my mother. Still miss ya, mom!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fifty Ways to Kill

Among the stranger things an author might research are all the ways to kill off a character. You might think it would be easy to knock off a character--but you would be wrong. Of course, there are the usual suspects. Shooting. Stabbing. Poisoning. Car accident. Drowning. Battle. But those have been done--pardon the pun--to death.

I've started a list of the more unusual ways my favorite authors have killed off a character. It takes imagination and creativity to make it work. You can't just present a messy death without setting up a plausible scene...and a believable narrative. So here's some of my favorites...not fifty, of course, but two or three.

1. Beheading by video game. Fantasy in Death by Nora Roberts. Yep, this one definitely grabbed my attention. I'm not going to 'splain it, but I read the entire book in one sitting to find out how Lt. Eve Dallas figured it out.

2. Bear attack. Prey by Linda Howard. The trick here was arranging a realistic reason for the character to be available for the bear. Incidentally, this was one damn, scary bear. Brrrrr.

3. Fall from a horse. Connagher by Louis L'Amour. Again...the reason this was unusual was because so many times western writers use guns as though that was the only way folks died then. This time the character was trapped beneath the horse in the wilderness...and eventually died there.

I've read a zillion stories where authors have killed off characters. And I've spent some time considering all the ways a human can die. So it surprises me when an author goes with the tried and true as though shooting or stabbing someone is the only way. Yeah, it takes more thought and time to set up, but the payoff in adding interest to the story is immeasurable.

So...what's the most interesting way you've read of a character dying? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Time Flies

Heh. Was looking through some photos and came across this one from 1979. That's my bunch at Grand  Canyon on a cool, damp August day. It rained most of the way as we drove up there from Phoenix where it was much warmer--hence the shorts on the kids. But the Grand Canyon cuts through a high plateau so the temps were much cooler.

A lot has happened since this photo was taken. The kids all grew up. The youngest, cradled in her daddy's arms is now a momma with a daughter graduating in a few short days. I look at this picture and remember this wild trip, 3300 miles, camping out every night, traveling the hot searing roads from Houston to Carlsbad Caverns to Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, back across New Mexico, Texas, to northern Oklahoma for a family reunion and then finally back home. We arrived in our driveway with about $3 and change in our pockets.

Our station wagon wasn't air conditioned so we rode with all the windows down. Somehow, we packed clothing for everyone (and bedding) plus camping equipment, a folding port-a-crib, and a high chair all in the back of that wagon. I have NO idea how we managed.

We had some adventurous times. High winds near the painted desert meant the kids all slept in the car while the hunk and I slept in the tent (and our weight was all that kept it from blowing away). In Oklahoma, a tornado touched down less than a mile from our camp ground. During torrential rains. When it passed, everything was soaked.

We encountered cactus, cows, snakes, rocks, scorpions, and horned toads. The kids learned to walk wary and keep a sharp eye out for unfriendlies. But we not only survived, we thrived. I'm glad we made that trip. It was the last 'big' trip we were able to afford.

As I think about it, the memories though misty and fragmented are precious. Time passes. Possibilities slip through our fingers. And before we know it, our children--and grandchildren--are grown, moving on to create their own adventures.

Monday, May 23, 2016

In The Beginning

Back in 2006 the hunk was transferred from New York to Baltimore. I resigned my job, supervised packing up the house, and we moved--all in a four week span. Then I spent several months wandering our new apartment, wondering what I was supposed to do with myself.

Finally, my son (who was staying with us temporarily after leaving the Navy) became frustrated enough to...suggest that I take myself off to my 'office' and brand spanking new computer and write. "You've moaned and groaned for years about not having time to write. Now you have time. Go write."

So, I wrote.

When I finished, that first book was almost 300,000 words. When I started investigating publishing possibilities, I discovered no one wanted a three hundred thousand word book. So I went back to the drawing board, carved my masterpiece into several smaller chunks, polished the first one up...and polished...and polished...and...the hunk, seriously annoyed at my procrastination sneered, "You're never gonna do anything with that book."

"Hah," I sneered back. Little did he know, I'd completely prepared my submission, but just couldn't make myself press the send button. However, with him standing over me, shaking his head in disbelief...I pressed send. And wondered what the heck I'd gotten myself into.

Well, anyone who's submitted a book to a publisher knows you don't get an answer back immediately, so I began work on the sequel. Positive thinking, right?

Five weeks later, I received an e-mail asking for the entire book. Shortly after that, I was offered a contract. And by then the second book was finished, so I sent it off. And then the third...

In the meantime, I had an idea for an new series of books about three sisters who go to Camelot in search for husbands. I sat down to begin the first one. And immediately, the entire enterprise jumped the tracks. Nothing I tried served to bring the characters to their senses. They refused absolutely and categorically to behave. Finally, I threw up my hands and let them have their way. And when I finished, I had a strange farcical version of King Arthur's court that I titled, Chrysanthemum.

With a shrug, I sent it off to my editor, thinking it would be rejected, but at least she would derive some amusement from reading it. To my eternal shock, I was offered a contract for my farce. Now publishing schedules are inscrutable to the average writer. Heck, they might even be inscrutable to the publisher for all I know. But for whatever reason, Chrysanthemum ended up on the publishing schedule ahead of all the other books I had contracts for at that point.

So. On May 23, 2007, nine years ago, Chrysanthemum, my first published book was released. It's not currently available as the rights have been reverted and I haven't re-issued it yet. But in that process, I've re-read it recently, and yeah...I laughed. It's still fun. And I'm pretty sure a writer can't ask for more than that. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Book Within

What's the difference between a writer and a non-writer? The writer has that constant inner urge to write. It might be poetry. It might be a gossip column. Sometimes it's a book or a short story--or a blog. But deep inside a restlessness shifts until the writer sits down to write.

Back before I was a professional writer, I had a lot of misconceptions about the process. I thought all writers used outlines and plans. They wrote on a specific schedule. They led glamorous lives with TV appearances and interviews with the press. Hah. Boy, did I get it wrong.

Yeah, that's true for some writers. But for a LOT of writers, the struggle to find time to write, the fight for publicity and recognition, even the grappling with the unfamiliar tasks of synopsis and blurbs can be exhausting and discouraging. More--the solitary life can lead to depression and loneliness.

The single factor most readers don't understand is what hard work it is to write. I live with a complete non-writer. When we married, he read about second grade level and writing was...not pretty. So he had no concept of what it takes to write anything--even something as short as a blog post. When I'm in the midst of writing an actual book? Forget about it!

Once, I was so frustrated, I told him to stay away from me until he produced a one page document. "What am I supposed to write about?" he whined. I shrugged. After all, no one tell me what to write about. "I don't have time to mess with this," he grouched. Really? REALLY?

Well, he muttered and belly-ached and moaned and two weeks later he slapped one sheet of paper down on my desk. My friends, it was bad. But it was a full sheet.

I looked up at his mutinous expression and said, "Now do that a couple hundred more times."


"Then check the spelling. Fix the grammar. Make sure there are no run-on sentences..."

He stomped off back to his room. But he never asked me again why it was taking so long for me to finish my book. I wonder how the public perception of writers would change if every reader did the same exercise? Would they have more respect for their favorite writers? Or less? What do you think?

Saturday, May 21, 2016


The thing about illness is it allows you plenty of time to read. I confess I've taken full advantage. Part of having such time at your disposal is the opportunity to reflect on what you've read --and why you like (or not) a particular book.

When you've read as many books as I have, you develop a list of 'best' books by your favorite authors. Once an author has a few books under their belt, there is a real possibility to decide for yourself which you consider their BEST book. This is, of course, a completely subjective judgement. What I consider the best book by a specific author might be totally absent from another reader's list. But most authors I've read over time have written at least one book I consider their best. For those who still live...that 'best' book might change.

A best book isn't necessarily my favorite book of theirs. For instance, I believe Linda Howard's best book is Son of the Morning. But my favorite book of hers is Cry No More. Cry No More is a close second, but Son of the Morning has that indefinable something that rates it the best...a creative spark that is difficult to pinpoint.

With some authors it's easy to pick a best of show. LaVryle Spencer ~ Morning Glory. Mary Stewart ~ Crystal Cave. Georgette Heyer ~ These Old Shades. Louis L'Amour ~ Last of the Breed. Mercedes Lackey ~ Exile's Honor. Nora Roberts ~ Birthright. Dorothy L. Sayers ~ Five Red Herrings. Jayne Ann Krentz ~ Sweet Starfire. Robert B. Parker ~ Five Weeks in Spring. Elizabeth Lowell ~ The Wrong Hostage.

These are by no means the only books they've written. These are simply what I consider their 'standout' books. Another reader would have a totally different list. I can't even verbalize exactly why each book is on my list. But there you are. Some of the titles on my 'Best of Show' list.