Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Willful Blindness

When I was a youngster, there was a well-known story titled, the The Emperor's New Clothes. It was about an emperor who strolled around naked while all the sycophants surrounding him exclaimed over his new clothes because none of them had the courage to point out he was naked. It takes a child to point out that the emperor is in fact naked.

Today, our congressmen and congresswomen, our judges, our department of justice are too cowardly to declare that in fact we are naked. They refuse to see the obvious truth everyone else sees. Instead, they spend their time bragging about the wonderful new clothes we wear. In November, we have the opportunity to reveal the truth by going to the polls to vote.

Isn't it time we declare the truth for all to see? In fact, we are naked.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Contract

Recently noticed a spate of posts of Facebook mourning the (sudden?) death of an author. Many of the posters mention various ways the deceased author mentored them or how much they will miss the author's books.

I find it sad that we wait until someone dies to tell them how much they mean to us. I further venture there will be folks who buy this author's books now when she's no longer around to know or care. What is it in our makeup that we wait until folks are dead to celebrate them?

How many times do we attend a funeral for someone, often driving many hours or flying across the country, guilt-ridden because we didn't visit them when they were alive? It's not enough to say we would have visited if we could. If we can go to the funeral, then why not before they die? After all, the only ones who know we showed up are the living.

So here's my idea. Let us have a contract with each other. Every single day, let us find one person to celebrate publicly. This person might be family (though no one should have to remind us to celebrate our family)! But I propose we choose someone unrelated--someone who likely has no idea what their contributions to our life have meant. Call them out. Brag on them to all our friends. Let them know just how special they are to us.

While they're still alive to appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Remembrance



More than any other 'holiday', Independence Day calls forth memories of the past. I suspect most of them are false collective memories. There are memories of parades and cookouts and picnics and other such. Oddly enough, I don't have any of those memories until we moved to Chicago.

When I was a youngster, we lived in Arizona. There were no parades. Or cookouts. Or any commemoration of the day that I remember. Perhaps it was because we lived in tiny villages. Perhaps it wasn't such a big deal before it became a commercial vehicle. I bet if there was no money to be made from it, the Fourth of July would sink back into the obscurity of private backyard celebrations with sparklers and water sprinklers.

Patriotic posts notwithstanding, there really isn't much patriotism marking our national birthday. Mostly, it's dwindled into a day off work that serves for an excuse to terrify the neighborhood with obnoxious fireworks and excessive drinking.

I like a cookout as much as the next person, though not as much as I've aged. I confess I enjoy the AC on a hot steamy day and find the summer pests like flies and mosquitoes generally annoying. But all of that is just window dressing for a day that seems to have lost it's meaning. Like most of our holidays here in the states, we've forgotten their origins in our rush for pleasure and excess. I wonder if this is deliberate ignorance, or simply more comfortable than true remembrance.

Some folks bemoan the lack of respect for the flag or the national anthem or other patriotic issues, but the truth is more subtle than that. As a nation, we've forgotten what this date was chosen to commemorate. If we were to ask the average citizen why we celebrate, most of them wouldn't be able to explain any particulars past the bare event denoted as our nation's birthday. MOST have no idea what the Declaration of Independence is all about. They don't know the real sacrifices made by the men--and women--who dared to stand up for what they believed to be right.

In the hullabaloo of fireworks and cookouts, we've forgotten why we have this holiday. It isn't because we're the greatest or the most powerful or have the biggest military (though I do offer my humble gratitude for all those who serve--present or past!) This day should be a remembrance of the fifty-six men who laid it all on the line back in 1776. They were men who had no idea what would come of their actions. I feel certain they would be most astonished at the spectacle we've turned it into today.

If you would truly honor them, then take time to gather your family and friends around you and read the Declaration of Independence aloud. Read the names. Honor them with a moment of silence and respect. Without that, the rest is empty rhetoric and hotdogs.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Where is the Story?

There's a weird thing about writing a series--sometimes a character (or two) can get lost in the undergrowth. When I started preparing the Mystic Valley series for republishing, I planned to go through each book, checking for grammar/spelling/timeline/continuity issues. You know--things like someone being in two places at the same time.

Since this series is already at five books, plus the prequel, Everything Lovers Can Know, and since the majority of the stories all overlap, it was necessary to create a detailed timeline.  Once that was complete, I highlighted the actions/characters for the different books in individual colors.

An odd realization slowly crept over me. The hero/heroine for Traveller's Refuge didn't really have much of a story. At least, they were robbed by competing characters and didn't get a chance to tell their story. Instead, bits and pieces were just stuffed in willy-nilly so the reader doesn't ever have an opportunity to know what makes them tick and why they fall in love.

For that, I apologize to both Traveller and Wrenna, and the readers. I had tentatively scheduled the release of Traveller's Refuge on July 1st. But if I want to truly give Trav and Wrenna the chance to show who they are, then that's going to have to be postponed. For that, I hope I'll be forgiven.

The thing is, Traveller was always my favorite hero from this series and I don't want him or Wrenna, the love of his life, to be short-changed. So...it'll be a little longer before their release. And I promise to make the wait worthwhile.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Balance

When I was around five, my overwhelming ambition was to grow up to do all the stuff my mommy did. I had an actual electric toy iron that almost started a fire and my mommy decided I needed a few more years before I'd be ready for the next step. However, dollies were safe so I had a lot of them and since my mommy was an excellent seamstress, every dolly had several outfits. I was a good mother.

When I was ten, my mother died suddenly and I abruptly assumed some responsibility for my brothers. I confess real 'parenting' was not nearly as much fun as pretend parenting. At that point I decided being a mommy was overrated and it would be much better to be a nurse or teacher. Little did I know those two professions pretty much encompass the same territory as being a mother. When I found out that was the case, I decided I would be a writer.

At the same time as my mother's death, my family also moved several states away so in one fell swoop, I lost friends, home, and mother. I read. A LOT. I sneaked the flashlight out of the kitchen drawer and read under my covers in bed in the middle of the night. It seemed to me a writer must be the most wonderful job. I had a vivid imagination and longed to be 'old enough' to write a real book. It never occurred to me that I could start right then. I thought I had to wait until I finished college or something.

Through my teens, books continued to be my bulwark against the chaos and uncertainty of the 60s. The world was a scary place with friends going off to the Vietnam War, peace marches, rioting in the cities, airplane hijackings, integration in the schools, and the first of the famous killers--Richard Speck--right in the city where I lived. Reading gave me a safe place to learn out the world around me.

Then I met a young man. We married, had three children in rapid succession, and reading was...an occasional treat in between washing and folding an unending stream of diapers and baby clothes. Heck, I didn't even have time to watch soap operas. My friend and I took turns watching and reporting anything new that happened.

At our sixth year of marriage, the hunk called one day to say we'd been transferred to Houston. Twenty-eight days later we arrived in a strange city with no place to live, no family safety net, and no acquaintance there at all. We found an apartment. The hunk worked two jobs so we could break even and I spent a lot of time alone. And I rediscovered books. Romances. I devoured them like a starving, ravening beast, hauling bags of them home from the library in the baby's stroller. I sat up late at night, reading them in the bathroom so I didn't wake anyone. And I started to glimpse again that old dream of writing my own book.

The next year we moved into a house. Did I mention we moved a lot? My last move was #41. Anyway, the library was very far away and I didn't have any transportation so once my oldest child was in school, I started writing. First by hand. Then on a typewriter. I was somewhat of a perfectionist so I spent more time correcting, than actual writing, but the bug had truly bitten me so I spent a lot of time working on various bits and pieces. I don't recall ever finishing anything. And in a shocking turn of events, we had another baby.

During this period, I started writing letters to my favorite authors. And I discovered a second hand bookstore owned by a woman who was active in the fledgling Romance Writers of America. I met authors there. Many of the authors who wrote for the early Silhouette and Loveswept lines stopped by to talk to the owner. She would call me when they showed up and invite me down to meet them.

Once while I was there she received a phone call. It was from Sharon Curtis, one half of the husband/wife team who had won the Rita that year. I wandered around on cloud nine for days after talking to her.

I wrote to Jayne Ann Krentz, one of my favorite authos, and she wrote back. Twice. I still have her letters.

Looking back, I can't imagine what the various authors I met or spoke to, or wrote to thought, but they surely kept me going through some dark days. And their encouragement meant everything.

We moved again. To the Hudson Valley in New York. Money was always an issue so I took a job at a local Waldenbooks warehouse. And I took advantage of one of the employee perks. We could 'borrow' any book in the warehouse for two weeks for free. Oh, yeah. This was my place, in spite of sore feet, tired back, and working until midnight every night. And once again, I started writing in my 'spare' time.

I started working out a scenario about two families that intermarried in a strange valley. Step by step I worked out different issues. In between there, I lost my job when the warehouse closed, went back to school, found another job...and kept picking at my story.

And then we moved again. To Baltimore. Abruptly, I found myself childless, jobless, and with a lot of time on my hands. My son, and the hunk, pushed me into the back room with my brand new computer and said, "You've always wanted to write. Do it!" I was fifty-five years old.

After a few false starts, I sat down and wrote a 120K opus about the families I'd worked on for years. It occurred to me I should find out what the publisher guidelines might be, and when I did, I realized I was going to have to make some radical changes. So I chose one couple from my 'novel' and wrote their story. I fussed over it, editing, revising, until I couldn't think of anything else to do to it. And I sent it off to an online publisher on a dare from the Hunk.

Three weeks later I received an e-mail asking for the entire manuscript. And about four weeks later, they offered me a contract. My first book in the Mystic Valley series was a reality. Six months later, Dancer's Delight was released.

I suppose you're wondering what this rambling hot mess is all about. It's just this--life eventually balances out if you just keep plugging along. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ups and Downs

Unlike the bear...my timing is not always 'on'. Such is life. I've been at the edge of the publishing curve, not quite where the readers are. Not quite with the pack.

I am slowly re-publishing my older books--the ones I've received my rights back on. And there's been an occasional sale. Last year in the doldrums of my life, I received six dollars from book sales. Our IRS lady didn't even list it as income. At that point, she said, it was a hobby.

Nevertheless, I persisted. I'm stubborn like that. Every year, the hunk and I each choose something to spend a small portion of our tax refund on. I chose to spend mine on excellent book covers for my re-pubbed books. I have to say, the enjoyment I received from choosing new covers was worth it, even without the spectacular sales I hoped for.

In the time since I started releasing the books on Amazon in February, I've made the princely sum of fifty-five dollars. Compared to last year, I'm practically a best-seller!

I confess, there are days I wonder about the feasibility of this whole writing gig. The number one way authors get feedback is sales. The second way is reviews, which are sadly lacking for my books. The few I had were lost when the books were taken down by my old publishers. Amazon doesn't seem to have any facility for transferring them to the new reissues.

But, the third way authors receive feedback is from direct contact through e-mails and instant messages. And there my timing seems to be spot on. Just when I decide it really isn't worth it, a reader will reach out with a note. I received one this morning. This reader is very excited about having my Mystic Valley books available again as she lost hers when she changed to a kindle.

What can I say? Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to type those few words to let me know someone out there stills loves the books. That's all I need. Just to know someone is reading the words I wrote. So...there's that UP note that keeps me going.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Talinea the Heartsinger


Then from the corner of her eye, Talinea caught a glimpse of the old man slowly approaching the fire. When he reached the rocky ground just past the circle of firelight she asked, “Are you hungry?”
He squatted on his bare heels and stared at her without replying. An errant wind plucked at wispy strands of white hair, blowing them across his craggy face and tangling them in his beard. He absently brushed them away.
“Perhaps you would like something to drink?”
“No. Thank you.” His voice was harsh from long disuse. “Who are you?”
“I am Talinea,” she replied calmly.
“What do you want?”
She shrugged. “In a vision I was shown this place. So. As you see, I am here.”
His body swayed to and fro as he considered her explanation. She noted the threadbare clothing and absence of shoes and marveled at his stoic toleration of the terrible cold.
“Tell me of the king,” he demanded abruptly.
“Romaden? No one knows if he lives or dies.” A rush of bitter wind howled through the small clearing, nearly extinguishing the tiny fire. She tugged her thick chintain closer about her shoulders. “As for his siblings, I have heard nothing. There are rumors he is raising an army, but I’ve seen no evidence of it. On the other hand, if he is, he would do well to keep it a secret.”
“You are a Heart.”
It was a statement of fact she was tempted to deny. At the last moment, she changed her mind, nodding instead. “Yes.”
“If he fights, will you guard his back?”
Her body froze as she pondered his disturbing question. The king’s guardian was usually a mighty warrior—unless he or she was also a Heart. In that case, because they were bound body and soul for life, the warrior’s skills were not required. The binding was less—and more—than a marriage, for the intimacy of the mind-to-mind bond was far stronger than any physical touch.
From the time her talents matured, her thoughts had centered exclusively on her own survival. She’d steadfastly denied her true calling. Yet here, with one penetrating challenge, the old man flung down the gauntlet of destiny. Fragmented visions and ideas coalesced into crystalline conclusion. Her breath caught, and her heart seemed to stop. She pondered the irrefutable call to commitment posed by the old man.
As the king’s Heart, her personal survival would always be secondary, her own dreams and wishes would always be deferred for her king. Then with a sigh, she surrendered to fate. Wherever he was, she must find Romaden. But before that happened, her first responsibility was to find a priest willing to take her oath of fealty to her king and the crown.
 
Meeting the old man’s eyes, she solemnly vowed, “I will guard his back.”

Friday, June 8, 2018

A NEW Book!

It's been a while since I've written a NEW book. Yes, I know, but life happened on multiple fronts and interfered. So...The Makepeace Sword will be released on June 15th. It's the first in a new series, set on a new world. The country of Baryna is partially sci-fi, partially medieval, so there's something there for everyone. Baryna is suffering under the rule of a terrible dictator who overthrew the monarchy and murdered the king.

The king's heir, Romaden, is grown now, but certainly not ready to take his rightful place as king. As a matter of fact, he doesn't even know he's the heir! But when his guardians urge him to overthrow the dictator and assume his rightful place, Romaden quickly finds there's more to it than just showing up. First he has to locate his Heartsinger, the one person in the kingdom who can keep him on the straight and narrow.

And then there's the missing Makepeace sword...

Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting Out Alive

When I was eighteen and could walk miles without really thinking about it, I never ever considered the day might come when it would take a major effort to walk down a partial flight of stairs. Oh, how the mighty are brought down.

A few weeks ago, the hunk went to the doctor for a stomach infection and ended up going for a bunch of tests because his EKG wasn't normal. This week, both of us went to see the doc for our six-month check-up. The hunk was sent to a cardiologist because he has significant blockage in a couple arteries.

Then the doc concentrated on me. My EKG was not normal. The doc shook his head several times and repeated that. "This EKG is not normal." Yeah, I got it. So in the near future, I'll be off to have a CT cardiology angiogram. Whatever that is.

I put out a feeler about getting rid of some of my meds because of the brain fuzzies I have. After some discussion, he added a brain MRI to my ongoing to-do list for the near future. Yeah...maybe a little mini-stroke or some such in there.

I asked him to look at a spot on my toe. Uh-huh. After more discussion, we added a trip to the skin doctor as little black spots on the toe are unusual enough to warrant more in depth study. And since I was going, why not have the doc check out a couple other spots?

By the way, it's time for my annual mammo which it so happens can be scheduled the same day as the MRI. See how convenient that is?

And wasn't it fortunate that I fasted before my appointment so the daytime vampires can take a hefty blood donation? Also...here's a cup. Please pee in it for us.

Stomach issues are lurking in the hinterlands...colonoscopy, endoscopy, whatever else they dream up. How about that liver? Is it still ticking along? Don't forget the bone density test that's overdue. On the up side, I lost another 1.6 pounds. That's something good, right?

So...I anticipate a busy week or two, what with one thing and another. They say getting old is not for sissies and that's the total truth. Of course, it's better than the alternative. Every single day.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The OTHER Day

Yep, it's that time again. Mother's Day...or as I like to call it, Other's Day. It's not a Hallmark Card moment, you know. For most of the women in this country, it's another day that just emphasizes how very unimportant we are.

I'm not mad at my kids. I'm not mad at the Hunk. I want to speak a truth most folks don't want to speak. Many, many years ago our family was in counseling. We'd been in counseling for quite some time. One afternoon, our counselor turned to me and said, "You don't seem very happy. What's on your mind?"

And for once, I told the unvarnished truth. "I feel like if I walked out the door today, none of my family would miss me until they ran out of food or clean clothes."

The counselor turned to my husband and children and asked, "What do you have to say about that?"

And they all agreed it was true.

That was a turning point for me. That was the day I finally realized other people--no, not even your husband or children--will not value you, if you don't value yourself. If you sit back and allow them to walk all over you, treat you like a rug (a tattered, filthy rug), then that's what you'll get. People like to say you have to earn respect, but my friends, you can't earn it by groveling.

I cannot tell you how many posts I've read on social media where women are moaning about not receiving cards or flowers or blah, blah, blah for Mother's Day. Their kids don't call. They don't write. Oh, woe is me.

I don't remember the last time I received a Mother's Day card. Sometimes they call. Sometimes they send me a nice posting on Facebook. And that's all okay. BECAUSE it's an artificial holiday. What I need from them isn't some big deal on one day a year. I want them to send me a quirky card for just because. I want them to call me because they want to talk to me. I want them to send me pictures or pages my grandkids have colored for me.

One day does not a relationship make. It's what happens on all the Other Days in our lives that counts.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Talitha Cumi

The first Talitha Cumi in our family married Andrew Martin in Arkansas in the early 1800s. Andrew and she had seven children before he died at the close of the Civil War from pneumonia. One of their daughters was also named Talitha.

Since then, in every generation, there has been a Talitha. My daughter and granddaughter are both named Talitha. My cousin is named Talitha, though she uses her first name. And my cousin's mother was named Talitha Cumi, just like her ancestor, though she mostly used Tye for her name.

This morning, very early, Aunt Tye died at age 92. She had a long, productive life. It wasn't easy, but like all good women, she persevered and kept on keeping on. In my family (both sides) the folks are long-lived. That's a blessing, mostly. But that extra long life means you have so many more memories and so much more to miss when they are gone.

So blessings and memories abound on this day when we all say goodbye. We loved you well, Aunt Tye.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Birth of Ideas

Adjusting to the vampire life can be difficult. Are you one of the new undead? You say your sire doesn't have time to teach you everything you need to know? Enroll in the Vampire Bootcamp course at the Others Lifeskills Institute. Our vampire instructor, Julian Taglio will teach you the important facets of the vampire lifestyle. Our new semester begins soon. Register at www.otherslifeskills.com

One of the questions writers receive more than any other is, "Where do you get your ideas?"

The idea for Alpheli Solution came from one of my occupations in a past life. I taught a course titled Computer Bootcamp for adults moving into the brave new world of computers in their workplaces. It was back when 3 1/2 inch floppy discs were brand new. And I had to explain the care and feeding of a mouse--one of those with a little ball inside.

One afternoon while sitting here in my office, I thought what if there was a bootcamp class for new vampires? What would they learn in the class? And...well, you can see how there would be a lot of directions you could go from there. Danamara, the new vampire in Alpheli Solution has all sorts of problems after her sire turns her, then abandons her in an empty parking lot. Miraculously, she survives the initial turning. And now she has questions. Lots and lots of questions.

That's how it works. You take a mundane idea and ask the question, what if? All of my books have been 'what if' books.

What if a hiker ends up in a valley with no way to get out? What if the inhabitants of the valley are all blue? Mystic Valley series.

What if King Arthur didn't really die? What if Merlin and the queen kidnapped him and returned him to the planet Avalon? What if...the story wasn't quite like we think it was? Flowers of Camelot series.

What if the Tuatha de Danann legends were real? What if an archeologist found the Lia Fail (stone that speaks)? What if Danaii wants her treasures back? Tuatha Treasures series.

The question isn't where the ideas come from. It's what happens after that? 

Sunday, April 29, 2018

BICHOK

When I was a newbie writer, BICHOK was a favored recommendation. For those who don't know, it stands for Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. It implies that simply staying there will somehow produce work. And it's wrong.

Writing isn't something you do because it's there. Especially, when you're just totally blank. I'm not talking about inspiration here. I'm talking about getting your brain in gear. And sitting won't do that. Staring at the computer screen opens you up to spending time on the mindlessness of social media. If you're not ready to write, if your brain is not engaged, then get up and find something else to do. Goodness knows, there's a limitless number of chores most of us have waiting.

Go do them. Vacuum, mop, clean the toilet, do the laundry, make dinner. Bake bread, go for a walk, pay the bills. Clean the closets. Purge your files. I guarantee by the time you do a few chores, you'll be more than ready to BICHOK. Drink a couple glasses of water. Clear your desk so there are no distractions. And finally, set a timer for thirty minutes (after the two glasses of water you may not need the timer, but it's better safe than sorry!)

Then sit down at the computer. Jot down some notes about what you want to accomplish. And begin. If you've accomplished nothing in that first thirty minutes, get up and go back to the chores. After a while, you'll have a clean house, clean clothes, a cooked dinner, and who knows? You might even have a chapter or two. For sure, you won't feel guilty about all that other stuff waiting for you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Cabin Fever

Rain, cold, rain, snow, rain... After a while, you wonder if you're doomed to never see the sun. Well, the sun is shining today. Naturally, we have a slew of errands to take care of, starting with dental hygienist visits. Yuck. Then, there's grocery shopping. And possibly a haircut. We'll round out the day with weigh-in at Weight Watchers and dinner.

The interesting thing is I don't necessarily want to go OUTSIDE. I just like to see the sun through the window. Going outside requires getting dressed. Taking a shower. Brushing the teeth. Putting on the outside, walking around glasses so I can see where I'm going.

I'd rather stay inside where I'm comfy. Where I can wear my sports bra and shorts and slippers. Where I can read or write without feeling like I'm rude.

Cabin fever? What cabin fever?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Opinions

“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn't stop you from having your own opinion.”
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl 
 
Social media is all about having an opinion. People post zillions of opinions everyday, mostly with no facts to back them up. That's the beauty of the internet. If you don't have your own opinion, you can always borrow someone else's.
 
Opinions now days are pretty interchangeable with beliefs. I think if we called them beliefs, fewer people would state their opinions because there's something about that word 'belief'. It implies a greater commitment than the word 'opinion'. Reality is most opinions are rock solid beliefs. And beliefs are much harder to change than a wimpy little opinion.
 
Maybe...maybe we should try a time-out for opinions and only have beliefs. I wonder how that would work out? 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Waiting

The hunk and I have a slew of appointments this week and next. Each one pretty much wipes out the day--not because the actual appointment takes so long--but because of all the OTHER stuff. You know. Get up. Take meds. Eat breakfast. Shower, times 2, dress, collect all the paperwork, then drive to the appointment. Depending on the time of day, etc., this can take a while.

Wait in the waiting room. Wait in the examination room. Ah-hah! The doctor arrives. Ten minutes later you walk out with another sheaf of papers. Drive back home. Collapse from exhaustion.

I don't know why the entire process is so tiring. But it is.

We try to fit in a side trip or two. For instance, after today's appointment, we'll do a quick pass through BJ's...if such a thing is possible. And of course, that will mean hauling groceries into the apartment and putting them away.

Every time I see one of those programs about online doctor appointments, I wonder how that would work. Would we still wait, except at home?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lessons

Back in the day when I first married and anticipated the joys of parenthood, my thoughts were all about the things I would teach my children. Kindness, love, fairness...you know, 'parent' things. I didn't even consider what I might learn from them.

The number one, absolute top lesson I learned is child logic is completely different from adult logic. The hunk and I were once awakened early on a Saturday morning by frantic knocks on our bedroom door. Sleepy inquiries elicited the information that there was a fire in the boys bedroom. The hunk leaped out of bed, starkers, and rushed to their room. Sigh.

The mattress was smouldering. Next to the bed, a merry little blaze was gaining ground...a campfire. Sticks. One of the firestarters I'd made for camping from paper egg cartons and wax. And a wide swath of newspaper.

The hunk carted the mattress outside, dumping it on the patio, while I smothered the fire with some baking soda. Once the fire was out, we cleaned up the mess. Score? A burnt mattress, scorched carpet, and two scared kids. In the 'discussion' that followed, one bit of logic came out that still stuns me to this day. WHY were there newspapers spread under their campfire?

To keep the carpet from getting dirty.

Number two--they have no comprehension of greater consequences. When our children were young, super human television stories were popular. Bionic Man. Wonder Woman. Our son leaped from the roof (how he got up there is a different story), because? He was the Bionic Man, of course. Naturally.

Another time, after taking the kids to the circus, we found the boys standing on their dresser, holding on to a piece of twine they had tied to the overhead lamp (another story for later). They were prepared to practice trapeze moves. Yes, I know. Twine does not equal a sturdy rope, but there's that consequences issue I mentioned.

And then there's the time our daughter walked out into the street in front of a car. Fortunately, the driver wasn't going fast and stopped in time. When she (rightly) yelled at our daughter, she and I were both dumbfounded by her little girl logic. Yep. You guessed it--she was Wonder Woman so the car couldn't possibly hurt her.

Number three...children have no filter when it comes to talking about their home life with outsiders. Sometimes, this is an excellent thing especially if they are in an abusive situation. Other times, well, let's just say it can make things iffy if someone decides to call in the authorities.

Take the time someone gave us a couch. We stashed the old one out in the garage until we could arrange to borrow a truck to take it to the dump. During this same time period, the two boys were going through a very normal stage where they didn't want to share a bedroom. Our older son decided he would sleep on the couch in the garage. No problem. We left the house door to the garage unlocked, and I figured the new arrangement wouldn't last long.

That wasn't exactly the way it went. He went to school and excitedly shared the new arrangement with his fourth grade class and teacher. Only what he told them was he now slept in the garage. Period. A very nice CPS lady came out to check out the situation. After an exhaustive discussion over coffee and cookies and a good laugh, she went off to file her report, clearing us of any wrongdoing. And a couple weeks later without comment, he decided he'd rather sleep in the bedroom with his brother.

My children are all grown now, some with children of their own. I freely admit I have a private laugh when they call me, ready to pull out their hair over something their children have done. They do say what goes around, comes around.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Book of the Day

 Recently, on my Facebook page I've started a Book of the Day post. It's not long. Book of the Day. Title. Author. And, just to be clear, these are not books I've written. They're books from my library.

It used to be book recommendations were passed along by discussing books over coffee or at a party or heck, even in line at the grocery store. That doesn't happen much, anymore. Some people check out on-line book groups. I don't. Many are genre specific and others are...unfriendly. I tend to talk about books I've read on a face-to-face basis, even if that is on social media.

So. Each day I'll post a title and author from my own library. Perhaps a reader will reminisce about the enjoyment they received from reading it. Maybe someone will discover a new-to-them author. Why some folks might even step out of their comfort zones and try new genres. I hope so.

This is my way of spreading the wealth. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Grandmother

When I was ten my mother died in a car accident. My family was literally in the process of moving from Arizona to Indiana when the accident happened so on top of losing my mother, I also lost home, friends, and all that was familiar to me. When we settled in Indiana, my grandmother lived with us as a surrogate parent/caregiver. I didn't know her as we had lived too far away to visit very often.

My grandmother taught second grade for many, many years--long enough that the grandparents of her current students frequently showed up to remind her she had also been their teacher. My mother was the quintessential stay home mom so I was unfamiliar with a female role model who went to work every day. We had the summer to get to know each other and then in the fall, it all changed.

Dad was home in the afternoons, still grieving and mostly hibernating, while Grandmother went off to work each day. I vaguely remember that my brothers did not adjust well at all that year to all the changes. I was too busy dealing with my own problems. Fortunately, I discovered the bookmobile and books became my salvation.

But, I did learn important lessons in that year after my mother died. I learned to be independent. My mother was a model mother, cooking, cleaning, doing everything and expecting nothing from us kids. It was pretty normal child-rearing for the 50s. The thing was--we didn't know how to do anything. We never learned.

On the day my mother died, my father was caught up in trying to find a place to unload our possessions so he could use our pickup truck to drive back to Arizona for my mother's funeral. I vividly remember him handing me a can opener, a can of tuna, and a loaf of bread and telling me to feed my brothers (who were all younger than me). I had no idea how to use a can opener. I had no idea what to do with the tuna. I had no basic survival skills.

Well, that summer I learned. My grandmother was not one to do all the work while idle hands were available. Her teaching method was basically, learn by doing. And there was a lot to learn. It had never occurred to me to wonder how food arrived at the table. Oh, I knew my mother did 'stuff' out in the kitchen and then 'poof', food was ready. My grandmother involved me--willy-nilly--in the whole messy process.

I learned how to wash dishes. I took out the trash. I made my bed. And helped with the laundry. All normal things to learn at my age, but let me tell you, I wasn't impressed. I wanted to go back to the old model where I played or daydreamed or read all day and I wasn't happy when I realized that life was over. Grandmother was firm about her expectations. Everyone works. Everyone. Even my little brothers learned to pick up after themselves.

The other thing I learned was personal responsibility for my behavior. I remember pounding into the house, all hot and bothered about something a friend did, just bursting to share my story. Grandmother listened. Then she told me to sit at the table and she pointed out several problems with my story. She showed me the event wasn't one sided. And when I wanted to argue, she shut it down. "If you can't say something good about your friend, then keep it to yourself. That way you won't have to apologize later for hard words you wish you hadn't said."

Unbeknownst, that was a lesson I was already dealing with. The day before my mother died, I was angry with her and shouted out, "I wish you were dead!" Months later, Grandmother's words reinforced the painful lesson.

Grandmother is long gone now. All my grandparents are gone. They were a powerful influence in my life. And I'm so thankful I was privileged to know them.  

Friday, April 6, 2018

How'd you like it?

One thing I have learned in the last eleven years...never ask a reader how they liked my books. They might tell me--and if they were 'meh' or worse--I don't want to know. I suppose I should clarify here. If I'm asking an editor/beta reader for their opinion, it's an effort on my part to improve my writing. I do want to hear what they have to say. I am actively soliciting their opinion.

But once the book is published, I won't ask for a review. I gratefully accept all reviews. But asking (for me) borders too close to expecting a positive outcome. Several years ago, when I first started my blog, I did Friday reviews of my fellow newbie authors' books. I saw the reviews as a way I could help out other new authors.

A very wise friend pointed out a huge pitfall in my Friday reviews. What would happen when I read a book I didn't care for? Then what was I going to write? After all, there's a big difference between a friend reviewing a book--and a professional reviewer. For one thing, that reviewer doesn't know the author. A friend? Well, that's different.

It's the same in reverse. What will they say if they don't like the book? New writers, in particular, have very fragile egos. A bad review can be devastating. A good review might be a lie.

I confess I love a good review. I'm enough of a perfectionist that I agonize over a four-star review, wondering what I could have changed to elicit a five-star review. And the truth is it's all subjective at best. It so often depends on how the reader feels that day, what their past is, what the weather is like...

I once received a one-star review because the book was too short. It was a book advertised as a 'quickie'. Another time I received a one-star review from a woman who totally trashed my book, then concluded by saying she had cramps and couldn't sleep so she was looking for something light to read.

There's only one way to deal with a bad review. Read it carefully to see if you can learn any thing from it. And then, walk away. Some bad reviews are simply irrational. There's nothing you can do about them.

And for the rest? Enjoy the good ones. Ignore the bad ones. And move on.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Road Trip

I LOVE a good map. I have an extensive collection of road maps, old maps, atlases, and home drawn maps. I've talked to some authors and readers who don't understand the importance of a good map. After all, we have GPS...right?

I don't. Never had it. Don't want it. It's just another way for folks to know where I am/what I'm doing. If anyone doesn't believe that, they haven't been paying attention to your average crime show. I haven't gone anywhere exciting lately, but who knows? I might.

I use maps to plan my strategy when I write. Are there mountains nearby? Caves? Rivers? How can I use them in the story? Often, the geography of an area can serve as an antagonist.I don't understand authors who fail to use this resource.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who have inherent direction finders in their brains. And those who can't find their way across the street without their GPS. This is exactly why I advocate everyone learning how to read a map. When/if the power grid goes down, everyone should know how to get out of town. Seriously.

Waaaaay back when the hunk and I first married, we decided to celebrate our six-months anniversary by taking a road trip. Chicago to Arizona. We were about two hours down the road when the hunk told me to check our next route change. And we discovered the atlas was at home. Well, he panicked.
I told him I would get us there with no problem.

Not to put too fine a point, he didn't believe me until I directed him to turn into my grandparents' driveway...three days later. We drove straight there with no detours. No getting lost. He never got over it. And that's how I ended up as the family navigator. I can get us almost anywhere, but I always like to check out the maps first.

Speaking of checking...if you're an author and you're going to mention a specific route number, make sure you check that it actually goes where you say, because I once threw a book across the room when an author didn't check...wasn't even close...and I never read another of her books. It's a simple thing to check--and if you can't check such a simple thing, what does that say about the rest of the 'facts' in your book?

Get a road map. Use it. Don't get lost!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Giveaways


Back in the day, back when I was a total newbie, I thought I had to have something to give to potential readers when I went to conferences. Everyone else was handing out pens and keyrings and little notebooks. Well, those things cost money--money I didn't have. So I gave out pocket rocks. And hair piks.

The pocket rocks were from my Camelot series and the hair piks were from my Mystic Valley series. I thought they would have the advantage of novelty. My daughter and her family were living with us. Everyone in the family was dragooned into painting or some other step in the process. When it was time for the conference, off I went, secure in the belief I had some fabulous giveaways.

Well, it didn't exactly go that way. At the end of the conference, I had a lot of rocks and piks. A reviewer stopped at my table and offered to take them to mail out in various reader packs, so I gave most of them to her. Every one of them had my web page painstakingly printed on them. They weren't expensive, but sure did take hours to make.

And the takeaway? I can't point to even one sale I made from them. And that was supposedly the point, according to all the author advice out there. Get your name in front of potential buyers!

I expect you're wondering why I'm bringing this up now. Well, everyday new writers stumble on to the publishing scene, overwhelmed with advice and helpful tips. Here is mine. Don't waste your money with giveaways in the belief you will attract new readers. Most of the people who take them are already fans. That's okay. Readers deserve extra little rewards. But you really don't need hundreds of them.

The other reality? Many of the folks I talked to packed the stuff from conferences, carted it home, and promptly dumped it in the trash. I have to say the few I discussed this particular conference with told me they still had their rock...or hair pik. So. I guess you could say my hard work paid off. My name is still sitting on their desk.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Message

The phone rang this afternoon. I glanced at the caller ID, saw it was a local number I didn't recognize, and ignored it. Until the caller said my name, her first name, and the admonition to "Call me."

Not so remarkable in the general scheme of things except A) I don't know anyone in this area named Ginnie (Virginia) and B) I didn't recognize the voice at all. Will I call her back? No. If she calls again and leaves a more detailed message, possibly. But based on a name I don't recognize, a phone number I don't recognize, and a non-message, no.

I know there are folks out there who answer every single phone call, but at our house, we don't. Our criteria for answering is: a phone number we recognize, a name we recognize, or a detailed message that identifies the individual calling and what their business is with us. Possibly harsh, but I've answered my share of scam calls and I'm not interested in answering any more.

The rule here is: State your name. State your business. Explain why I should return your call.

You'd be surprised at the number of calls that are hang-ups. Seems to me they must not need to speak to me if they can't give simple information. I feel it's a matter of good manners. A phone is just as much a portal to my privacy as my front door. No one would expect me to open the door to someone I don't know. Who would do that?

Do you want to talk? Tell me who you are. Tell me why I should answer the phone. Simple.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Insidious Censorship

Books, whatever form they take (print, digital, audio) are under attack. At the moment, the focus seems to be romance books, but there are rumblings about other genres taking the same hit. And what form might this attack be? Rankings on Amazon.

Now, I'll be the first writer to raise my hand and confess that rankings were never something I've been too concerned about because my books are so low in the rankings as to be invisible. However, the rankings are now truly invisible. Amazon has arbitrarily decided certain books are offensive. In order to make it harder for readers to be exposed to such books, they've stripped all rankings so those title don't appear in a reader query.

Censorship is a slippery slope--especially censorship based on some nebulous individual's idea of what is offensive. In this case, apparently, reading romance will lead to sex-trafficking. Yep, romance authors are in the forefront of world wide sex-trafficking because their books dare, I say dare to mention the S word...and I'm not talking about snow.

On another front, I read a couple pieces today stating Microsoft was going to take a greater interest in how their products are used (including Word) and to that end they will start searching out offensive material. There's that word again--offensive. Who decides what is--or is not--offensive? And again, recent legislation related to sex-trafficking has been cited for the reason for this sudden intrusion.

So, I just wonder how the Bible would stand up to this form of censorship...considering all those stories about sexual slavery, incest, rape, stoning...not to mention child marriage, etc. I have nothing against the Bible. I was reared in a Bible reading home. But it's strange how censorship is in the eye of the beholder. Folks out there cheering the current wave of changes might want to consider how those same standards could be used to censor almost all sacred texts (Bible, Koran, etc.) because they all contain passages that would apply.

I've always found it interesting how people don't understand how laws that restrict rights of others can be used to restrict their own, with the right government in power. I say, be careful how you rejoice in your victory. When all the writers are silenced, who will they come for next?