Monthly Archives: May 2012

On teaching a cat patience: cause + effect = conflict

My big, handsome, fuzzy boy cat Scooter is not happy with me.  He’s had a bad stomach this morning so I hid his food.  He’s sure that it he meows and prances ahead of me to the food place in my study, I’ll feed him because, after all, that’s what I’m for.  That’s what I do—whatever Mr. Scooter wants.

Have you ever TRIED to explain to a pet WHY you’re doing something?  Cause (bad tummy) and effect (no food bowl) aren’t their strong points.

As a writer, I know too well about problems with cause and effect.   A writer has to use very careful motivation.  If a cat is sick and wants food but the owner gives him none, there is conflict.  If a man is sick and the heroine gives him ice chips instead of the steak he wants, there is conflict.   If a villain wants whatever the heroine has and she refuses to give it to him, conflict. 

In the very first book I attempted, I loved my characters so much that I didn’t want to make them unhappy.  Hence, no conflict.   The book was short and dull.   A writer lives on cause and effect which leads to conflict.   We may not like it in our “real” lives, but we love to put our characters through agony, to give them every conceivable—and inconceivable—hardship and twist we can.    We torture our characters to make the book interesting, to draw the reader in because a book without conflict is a short book.

And it’s so much fun to make or characters suffer!  Writers have great power over life and death and happiness—at least in our books.

Excuse me.  Scooter wants my attention again.  He meows and I leap to my feet:  cause and effect.   I’ll pet him but he’s not getting food: conflict. 

Oh, and about that “teaching a cat patience”?  Can’t be done.

With deepest appreciation

My father fought in World War II.  Although he was nearly 40 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, married with three young children, and attempting to see up him medical practice, he signed up immediately.    He landed at Normandy and served in general hospitals around the Battle of the Bulge. 

When we went to Europe many years later, we drove to the beaches.  The pill boxes that spit death at those brave soldier coming across the beaches were still there, covered in sand.   I still can’t believe anyone survived that.   We then went to a military cemetery with rows of crosses and stars of David, hundreds–perhaps thousands–of graves far away from, home for those who fought.

You are not forgotten.  Whether you served back then or are serving now, thank you.  You are my heroes.

I’m guest blogging–twice! About TWO books! Hope you’ll visit.

Connie Almony graciously invited me to blog on both of her sites.  She interviewed me about how I write here

A lot of this has to do with Butternut Creek and all the nice folkls who live there as well as my writing process.




I’m dyslexic and still struggle with even the simplest tasks such a remembering number and telling the difference between a b and a d.   I blog about that disability and the book that five writers for Love Inspired compiled about our efforts to overcome this.

The afternoon Dick Clark called me

Do you remember cliques from your high school days?   At Southwest High School in Kansas City, MO, where I grew up, the two main groups were the popular kids–athletes and cheerleaders and the cool kids–and the smart group.  I was part of the latter.  I was president of my literary society and feature editor of the school newspaper.  Sweet and nerdy.  

This is why when the faculty sponsor of the school newspaper asked me and my friend Betty to interview Dick Clark, I didn’t even know who he was.    I’d heard of American Bandstand but didn’t watch it.  For one thing, I didn’t find watching others dance very entertaining.  For another, I didn’t dance well at all.   Today I realize that’s because of my dyslexia–but I blame everything on my dyslexia.

Undaunted by a total lack of who the man was and what to ask him, Betty and I trotted off to a studio in uptown Kansas City.  Oh, Mr. Clark wasn’t going to be there in person.  They had an office set up with about twenty phone lines and two students from each high school in the area got to talk on a sort of party line.  Way back then, conferences calls hadn’t been invented.    The interview lasted about fifteen minutes.  I didn’t ask a single question nor did Betty.  Fortunately, the other students were far more hip than we were and had plenty of questions.  We took notes and wrote a nice story about the conversation that we’d listened to.

After that, I watched his dance show a few times.  I couldn’t pick up most of the dances but I did learn two.  If any dances required less talent or ability  than The Stroll or The Bristol Stomp, I don’t know what they could be, but I really grooved to those two.  

As I got older, I saw clips of the artists Clark introduced on American Bandstand.  The list is amazing, from Chubby Checker and Aretha Franklin to Jan and Dean.   Mr. Clark’s influence on American music is amazing and wide.  And, for fifteen minutes that afternoon, I was a tiny part of Americana.  

What do you remember from your youth?   Have you met a celebrity?  What groups do you remember from Bandstand?  Can you name the three rock icons–groups or solos–that didn’t appear?   

Why do we have these creatures?

On Sunday, I posted on Facebook about finding cat vomit under a piece of newspaper and asked, “What’s worse.”  Turns out there are a LOT of animal-related poop and vomit stories out there and my friends shared many.   On the Facebook post, I added a picture of our big, handsome boy cat, Scooter (on the left) because he’s just to darned cute.

But I may have blamed the wrong cat.

Yesterday, I tossed the clean laundry on the sofa and folded mos of it.  I left George’s T-shirts on the back of the sofa for him to fold.   That is also the favorite napping place of Maggie, the fat little girl cat.   Sadly, Maggie (to the right) is a one-person feline.  She adores me but isn’t as fond of George.   Sometimes when she’s sitting next to me on the love seat, he’ll tickle her feet.  She really hates that.  She threatened vengence–but who knew?

This morning, George went to pick up and fold the shirts and discovered–well, if you had to guess, based on my previous Facebook post, what did he discover?   Yes, cat vomit.  It had to be from Maggie because that’s her place.   And that makes me wonder who left the other offering.

Please forgive me with my constant harping on this subject.  I hope this is the end of it.   If George will leave Maggie’s feet alone, I think  this will solve the problem.

But probably not.

Help! Help! I’ve lost my nouns!

Help!  Help!  I’ve lost my nouns.

Writers work with words. That’s expected of us.   

However, at times, I forget a word.  Usually that word is a noun.  Oh, most of us have done that, but the older you get, the harder it is to come up with the right word.  Talking to my sister-in-law often turns into a fill-in-the-blanks quiz.  Thingy is probably the most important  word in Diane’s vocabulary.  She couldn’t complete a sentence without it.

My husband and I like a little variety.  We also use dealy and what’s-it as well as doodad, doohickey and gizmo.  This means we use sentences like, “Would you give me the dealy?” or “I’m going to put the thingy in the whatchamacallit.”

In case you have the same problem, here are some tips for communication without using nouns. 

One tip I don’t include:  point   It’s not a suggestion because  this gesture can be misconstrued so badly.  When I point, George always hands me the wrong thing.  I’m still trying to decide if he does this on purpose or because he truly can’t see which thingamabob I want.  I’m pretty sure it’s to bother me.  After all, we’ve been married a really long time.

Okay, so here are some tips.

1)  If you can’t think of the word, describe.  For example, “Hand me that big blue thing with the spots.”

2)  Trail off, as if you meant to be mysterious.   “I need the. . . ”  Add a wave or a wink for authenticity.

3)   Use in context.  For example, if I’m sitting in front of the television holding two remotes and say,  “Would you put the dealy in?”  my husband usually understands I’m ready to watch a DVD

4)   Gestures can say a lot.     Although he pretends not to—yes, we’ve been married a long time–my husband knows I mean “fast forward” when I position my hand as if I’m holding the remote and pretend I’m clicking with my thumb.

4)  Wait and hope someone else fills in the word for you.  The problem with this is that the other person may fill in the blank with the wrong noun.  Here’s an example from a conversation between George and me.

George:          I need . . . [He waves toward the table.]

Me:                 [Looking around]  A napkin?

George:          No, no.  I need the black thing.

Me:                 The phone?

George:          No, the water . . .

Me:                 A glass of water?  A black glass of water?  [I have no idea what this means]

George:          No, furry.

Me:                 A furry black glass of water?  [Still confused]

George:          No, the cat.  The cat’s on the table.

This, of course, takes a lot longer than if George had just gone to the table and sprayed the black cat using the water-sprayer thingus.     

My greatest fear is that I will lose every one of my nouns.  Right now, I’m fairly confident with cat, husband, computer and keyboard and most people understand “Place where I sleep” and “Cold thing in the kitchen.” 

Actually, what I fear most is losing my verbs.  Then I could no longer form a . . . a . . .  you know, that thing with a noun and a verb and maybe another noun and those describing words.


Confession: I am not a patient person

I am not a patient person.    My husband would tell you that is an understatement.

My litle sister once said, “I hate to wait in line.”

I said, “Everyone hates to wait in line.”

She responded, “No one hates to stand in line as much as I do.”

So I guess our impatience is genetic.

Put me in a traffic jam and I’m ready to leap out of the car, find out the problem, and start directing traffic.  My husband would also tell you I’m fairly bossy, too.

I’ve gone around several blocks, even gotten lost once for half-an-hour, because I don’t want to sit at a stop light.

As well as this trait being genetic, it also probably comes from driving with my father.     Both nature and nurture.  He was a very busy medical doctor who made house calls up through the 1960’s.  Because he wasn’t home a lot, I’d go with him when he made calls. Neither was he a patient man.   My father never saw a line of traffic he couldn’t get around.  From him, I learned to pull into a right turn only lane and pull ahead of traffic with a jack-rabbit start.   I stopped doing that when I passed a friend on the right and he mentioned this was illegal.  I may be impatient but I am not a lawbreaker.

What stretches your patience?  Do you consider yourself a fairly patient person or not?




Hot, sexy covers and Facebook glitches

My good friend Kathy Bennett and I met nearly seventeen years ago at a writers’ conference in Dallas and we’ve kept up with each other as we worked to publish.  A retired police officer, Kathy writes great novels which draw on those experiences.   

On her blog, Kathy has an interesting interview technique.  She questions us in her interrogation room, then writes a police report about her guests.  It’s really creative and lots of fun.   She invited me to be questioned and I had a great time.   Sadly Kathy doesn’t archive these so it’s gone forever. 

I write the sweet books, the books where hero and heroine feel an attraction and kiss, but that’s it.  In my books, the characters never take off any article of clothing except hats, coats and shoes.   As far as the reader knows, my hero may shower in his pajamas.

The day the blog was up, I publicized it on Facebook and Twitter.   Later that evening, I went on Facebook to check my announcement and discovered it  was accompanied by the sexiest cover I’ve ever seen:  a well-shaped, curvy female body in almost no clothing and what wisps she wore were were red and lacy.  I flipped out.  Remember, I write the SWEET books in which everyone is fully clothed.  I could only imagine what my readers would think!  And my editor!  And my church friends.  Oh, my!

First I attempted to delete the picture but couldn’t because the little delete arrow didn’t show.   With that failure, I sent a hysterical message to Kathy and begged her to take that picture down.    Kathy leaped into action and tried to delete it but she didn’t have the button either and one of her pretty covers–with no nearly-naked people–showed on the page she could see.  

As always, Kathy was lovely and did everything she could from California while I worked hard in Texas but we never figured it out.   She felt terrible about it.   After I calmed down, I assured her we’d laugh about this–some day.  And I do not blame her.  I blame a Facebook glitch.

Little by little, that cover dropped down the page, shoved lower by new messages.  In fact, as small as the thumbnail was, I’m not sure anyone saw it.  No one wrote me accusatory letters or even mentioned the cover judgementally. 

Oh, wait, not true.  I just got a couple of emails.  One was from Roy, a friend from seminary and a minister.  He said he’d seen the cover a couple of times.  Fortunately, he was not incredibly shocked and still seems to be speaking to me.  My friend Marylin wrote she was sorry to have missed it.

What happened?  I don’t know.  My guess is that somehow a glitch on Facebook changed the image but we’ll never know.  Fortunately, it’s so far down the list, no one will see it now.  I hope.

Unless you go all the way down to that date (which I’m not mentioning) on the Facebook page.  Please don’t.