Category Archives: Writing

Pity the poor writer

cookiesWhen I was a little girl—a Brownie—I had to sell Girl Scout cookies.   Back then, we’d go from door to door in our neighborhoods.  I couldn’t do it.   I was shy and timid—yes, I was!–and the idea of asking someone to buy something from me really frightened me.   For that reason, my mother gave a contribution to the troop.  I truly believe I would have hidden in a closet if she told me to go out and knock on doors.

Years later a group I belonged to in high school sold donuts for a fund raiser, once or twice a semester.  Again, I couldn’t do that.  This time, my mother frozen the box of a dozen we had to purchase.

This part of my personality makes book promotion very difficult for me.   I have to turn into another person to push myself, to ask people to buy my books.  I do but I’m never comfortable.   The best example of that distress pops up during book signings.signing

During some signing, lots of friends show up—and I appreciate those friends greatly.   When they don’t, however, I’m left alone at the table in the front of the store , attempting to sell myself and my books.    o lure people to my table, I sprinkle chocolate candy across it.   People will sidle up to my place, refuse to make eye contact, grab a piece of candy, and dash away.    Others run past me so fast that I can’t make a pitch or make eye contact.   My table is often mistaken for an information booth and I’m asked where the rest rooms are or where the delivery man should put the boxes he’s delivering.

Then I force myself into my salesperson role, smiling broadly and chirping about the wonderful book I’m signing.   One afternoon, I sold eight books to people I’d never met and consider that a great success.  More often, I sell none or one and most of the shoppers treat me as if I had a terrible and easily communicable disease  or I’m a raving, chirping Matchmakers cover 2idiot from whom their children must be protected.

I end this blog with a plea.  If you are in a book store and you see an author sitting at a table—all alone—in the front of the store, please don’t run.   If you don’t want to buy a book, at least smile at the poor soul.    We would all really appreciate it.     And we’ll give you candy.



nanoYes, November is National Novel Writing Month (we seem to have a badge!)   We are challenged–all of us, even you–to write an ENTIRE novel during the month.  It doesn’t have to be a good novel.   It’s written but not edited–just pure writing from the beginning to the end.   I’ve challenged myself to do that.  Leaped out of bed this morning,  sat down at the computer.   I have to confess, I did eat breakfast, drank coffee while petting the kitties, and checked email first but, after that,  I started writing.  then I decided I liked the other story better and wrote a few lines on that.   Then I went to the post office and came home for a nap.   All in all, I accomlished very little but I  wrote a few sentences which makes me happy.

But, in the midst of all the excitement and challenge,  I forgot about the blog!   So, here it is.   If you want to write a novel, try NaNoWriMo.

THE WEDDING PLANNERS OF BUTTERNUT CREEK comes out Tuesday.  Release day of a novel NEVER gets old.  I’m filled with fear–what if Matchmakers cover 2everyone hates it? What if my editor tells me they are not  paying me the rest of the advance because it’s so bad?  What if my writing friends star throwing books at me?   On the other hand, what if people do like Hannah’s romance and Adam’s wedding?  Writing is a risk and a gamble.  And RT said, “”An utter delight.”  That means something, right?

I’ll be blogging several times–guess blogging–next week.  I’ll put a link  on this blog so you can visit them.

Would you please hold my hand until Tuesdady?  I would appreicat that.  A “there,there” and a soft pat-pat would also be appreciated.

Many thanks


Do good people ever use bad words?

two legs gone marineIn emails and reviews, I’ve been excoriated because one of my characters uses “bad words”   Sam’s an alcoholic Marine amputee suffering from PTSD and mourning the death of his best friend in combat.   At the beginning of THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK, Sam’s having a bad time.  First, he’s under fire in Afghanistan and shouts, “Where the hell are the  . .”  I’m going to confess, if I’m taking fire and there isn’t any suppressing fire coming in, I’d get a little anxious.  I may be tempted to curse.  Tempted, nothing, I’d probably let go with a string of  words I never use normally.  I thought Sam showed great patience.   However, several of my readers didn’t.  One lady wrote me a long email about how Christians never used potty mouth girlthose terrible words.  Then she pointed out the words that Sam used on page. 28 and page 49 and page 126.   I got the feeling she didn’t read the book.  She just looked for the bad words.  That breaks my heart because I think she’d have enjoyed the material that came between the three really not horrible words. I think she might have been inspired if she’d read the book.

Look at the reviews of my Butternut Creek series on  According to some reviewers, I’m the most potty-mouthed writer in the history of the world.    My feeling is that we are not perfect.  That in moments of stress and fear and sorrow God understands we may say words we wouldn’t use in front of our grandmothers–and I believe God looks at our situation and says, “I understand.  Just don’t use the F-bomb.” 

Although I’d never use the F-bomb in any of my books, surely there are characters who would.  I mean, a serial murder probably isn’t going so say, “Oh, shaving cream” when the man he’s supposed to kill get the drop on him.   There are characters like Al Capone and Scarface that probably used words I’d never think of saying or writing because they ran with a pretty tough set.  My only big problem is when the worst of the four-letter words are used in place of good writing, that’s just laziness.

So, what’s your opinion.   Sam’s not a Christian yet.  Should he be judged for using an occasional curse?   Do Christians sometimes say “heck” or “darn” or even worse words? Is that all right or not?    If you’ve read my novels have you been ashamed that I used a few curses?   I’d love to know your opinion.


I am the grammar cop, judge and jury

Keep calmStep away from the keyboard now!  Put down the mouse.  You are guilty of bad grammar and your computer privileges have been suspended   until you learn how to use apostrophes.   I have the power to pass this sentence on you because I am not only part of the grammar police, I am a grammar judge.

Oh, I wish I could punished people for bad grammar but it doesn’t work.  Over and over people misuse adverbs, have no idea the difference between the objective and the subjective pronouns, and have to be told over and over to set  off  a noun of direct address with commas.    And they use hopefully  when they really mean I hope. 

I hate to admit it but when I was a teacher, I roamed the hallways with a huge marker and correct the signs students made  about football games and meetings and whatever.  I did this because I could not stand to walk by the same poster over and over that misused commas.

But reality has balanced out that addiction to correct bad grammar. sort of, but it still bothers me.    I have learned to ignore, “My mother made a blanket for my daughter and I.”   Oh, inside I scream, “She didn’t make the blanket for I!  She made it for ME!  For my daughter and ME.”   But, outside, I’m serene and accepting.    I hate it when someone states, “You need to speaker louder.”  No!  An adverb modifies a verb.  How do you need to speak?  More loudly!  More loudly!  More loudly .”   Excuse me while I breathe deepLY and calm down.

Don’t get me started on “hopefully”.   As an adverb, it modifies a verb (as mentioned before) noun and means “with hope” as inhopefully“The dog gazed hopefully at the treat in my hand.”   WITH HOPE that he’d get the snack.    “Hopefully, we will all sleep late.”   No, we do NOT sleep hopefully!   Correct:  We hope we’ll sleep late.”

For my peace of mind, I’ve had to give up.  Language changes.  I remember back when I was in seventh grade and taught “I shall” was correct.

Yes, I have to accept, but I don’t like it and I’m going to keep my marker handy.  Watch out and speak correctly!


Do your research!

schizoHave you watched the program Perception?  It’s about a schizophrenic who teaches in college and solves crimes on the side.  I really like it.  The actors are good and the production very well done.   However, a few weeks ago, the hero–Dr. Daniel Pierce played by Eric McCormack–decided to go undercover in a mental hospital to solve a murder.   Here’s the problem:  I worked in a state hospital and the errors  made me nuts.     Pierce pretended to be going through an episode, was picked up by cops who took him to a mental hospital.  Shortly after he entered, he was given his meds.     Mental hospitals are the same as medical hospitals:  no one gets treated before a doctor sees the patient and prescribes medications and care.   Then, he’s placed in group therapy with patients who are  catatonic and others who are violent.  Again, no orders for this from a doctor and someone as high function as Pierce would never be in a mixed group and how in the world would a catatonic patient be helped in group therapy? 

med doctor babyWhen I was a child, Friday night was family movie  night.   My brother Mike and I had to be careful about what movie we allowed our father to see.  Dad was a medical doctor.  We learned young not to allow him near a movie about a doctor or a hospital because he would–loudly–point out every error made on the screen.   However, some movies sneak medical stuff in unexpectedly.  In many Westerns, a woman goes into labor.  As soon as that happens, one of the actors shouts, “Boil some water.”  My father would break out into laughter and shout, “What are they going to do?  Boil the baby?”

Mortifying in so many ways.  As a writer, I’m embarrassed because the person who wrote the screen play didn’t do basic research who after  watching many Westerns, believed that boiling water when a woman went into labor was a scientific fact.

As a teacher, I hated it when the teacher heroine would slip out to met her fiance for an hour-long lunch or when class size was seven students or that they work only four hours a day.

What bugs you when a writer makers a mistake?  I once threw a book at the wall because the story couldn’t overcome the errors for me.  Have you ever done that?


Howard’s Socks: the definition of creativity

 When I was a child, my best friend Howard Crampton Smith lived across the street in a house with a sunroom and a porch.  We spent long, warm days riding our tricycles on “Bumpity Road” and playing “Simon Says” and “Mother May I” on the steps in front of his house.   When we started Kindergarten at Border Star Elementary School, Howard and I walked together those few blocks and played together at recess. 

But the best thing I remember about Howard was the day he colored his socks. 

Our teacher had each student lie on a piece of craft paper on the floor while she drew around us.  Then we stated to color in that outline. 

It was when we arrived at the feet that Howard’s genius emerged.  Instead of being true to the plain black socks he wore, he decided to make designs on his socks, wonderful, outlandish, colorful patterns and shapes so fanciful no company would or could ever manufacture such  whimsy.  Thrilled by the concept, I followed Howards’s lead on the right sock but then realize that both socks should look alike.  Matching my fantasy sock was very difficult and quite boring.  Howard did not entertain the necessity of his socks being identical.  He blithely put himself in  fanciful socks which didn’t look the least bit the same.  They were magnificent.

When I contemplate creativity, I think of Howard and his fantastic socks.  I write books I love—but I will never reach the heights he did in Kindergarten.  

What do you do in the shower?

I grew up taking baths.  My mother said that was what “we” did.  I don’t know what that means except it conveyed the idea that soaking in gallons of water was the only way to become truly clean and that those who showered were covered with scum and unclean.   Oh, I took showers at camp.  In my college dorm, I took showers because I don’t remember there being tubs.  I went to college shortly after the movie Psycho was released so taking a shower was an act of courage.  In the sorority house, we had two tubs, located in the same small room–a literal “bath room”.  Cozy and a little creepy so most of us took showers.

I didn’t really become a shower fan until I had to get up at five-fifteen to get to work on time.   I’d always taken a bath at night and washed my hair in the sink in the morning, a great waste of time when one has to leave the house at six-thirty. 

It wasn’t until many years late after watching an episode of Friends that I discovered I really didn’t know exactly how one took a shower.  I mean, there are no classes in it, no pamplets or information booklets.  Yesterday, I googled how to take a shower and found pages of information with instructional sketches and pictures and explanations of how one takes a shower.  Amazing. 

I asked the question in the title of this blog NOT to elicite stories of unbounded lust.  No, I asked that because as I read those blog pages, I discovered that it’s a good idea to brush your teeth in the shower.  This cuts down on having toothpaste down the front of your nightie.    My question:  Do you brush your teeth in the shower?  If so, how did you know learn about this?  I’m feeling a little ignorant on this point.

I’ve just started reading the Jack Reacher books.  In the first book, this man travels for a day, walks fourteen miles, is arrested and spends the weekend in jail.  Four days without a shower or change of clothing and women still fall all over him.  He did, however, take showers in the third book and describes his three shower techniques in detail.   The shortest takes eleven minutes, a basic shower plus hair wash.   I can’t image spending eleven minutes in the shower.  What does one do?  Wait, I don’t want to know.  The second type of shower adds a shave and takes twenty minutes.  The third is an eleven-minute shower.  Then, he gets out of the shower with moisterized skin and shaves, then finishes the shower and washes his hair again.  A total of over thirty minutes.  With Reacher, it’s all or nothing.  For me, a waste of the morning.

Anything you’d like to share?


What did you want to be in seventh grade?

When I was in seventh grade at Border Star Elementary School in Kansas City, MO, my teacher had a class project:  we all wrote our autobiographies.   If you’re wondering, “What does a twelve-year-old have to write in an autobiography?” the answer is, not much.  

Nonetheless, we were all excited about this.  We typed one page, single spaced, which were all copied on something purple and, by now, nearly too pale to read.  We put the thirty-six pages together and bound them.  In the end,  we each had a hand-bound book with the story of everyone’s families and pets and vacations.   Believe it or not, many, many years later, I still have this.

The very last section of each autobiography was about our plans for the future.   What did I want to be in seventh grade?  I wrote, “I want to be a ballerina, author, and illustrate my own books, and, in my spare time I will write plays and act in them.”

How close did I come?  I realized very soon that I’d never be a ballerina:  I liked to eat and didn’t like pain,  Besides, I’m not the most graceful of people.  And, as much as I liked to draw, I always had trouble with noses in a frontal view.  This lack of skill left my people with oddly flat faces which left out illustrator.   I also learned that I’m not an actor.   I’m too inhibited to become another person and show their emotion.

However, I did become an author with ten published books and I also wrote an award-winning one-act play in college.   Two out of five–that’s pretty close.  

What did you plan to be in the seventh grade?  How close are you? 

I’m not a fancy lady

The Romance Writers conference is in July.  Because I’m a RITA finalist, I have to come up with something  to wear.  Looking in my closet, I realize my wardrobe consists of jeans and knit tops, many with Cardinals or Power Cats on them.    I once had a pretty, flouncy dress.  I wore it in 1999 when I was a Golden Heart finalist and in 2004 when I was a presenter during the awards ceremony.  This spring as I cleared out closets, I thought, “I’ll never wear this again because ‘fancy’ doesn’t fit my life style.”  Some lucky woman bought it at Good Will and I’m out looking to replace it.

The search has been distressing but had it’s moments of fun.  I tried on a lovely black sequined dress which did not  look like me.  As I left the dressing room, I ran into Tracy Wolff–one of my favorite writing friends–and had such a great conversation that people came over and said we sounded as if we were having fun.  I’ve been pondering if they really meant, “You’re too loud.”   She got some great and very bright clothes.  I got a pair of jeans.

A few days later, I went to lunch with the beautiful and talented Katie Graykowski who offered me a couple of her fancy outfits.  Thanks, Katie!  Katie is gorgeous.  She’d look great in red velvet but it’s just not me.

Then I had an idea!  I had a black top with black beads around the top in my dresser.  I’d never  worn it because, yes, it’s fancier than I am.  Sadly, that shirt had been ignored for  so long that one-third of the beads had fallen off.  

How would you describe yourself?  Are you fancy or comfortable or do you just not care?

Help! I bought a new computer and I can’t set it up!

Actually, what I wrote in the title isn’t true.  I have much of it set up but still have some glitches.  I was on the phone for an hour this morning with MOZY to get my files transferred from one to the other and need to talk to them more,  then AOL, and then the Apple store.  Maybe by next week I’ll figure out how to do everything on the iMac.

The reason for the change is that my PC is sooooooooooo slow loading and was freezing up all the time and I had to restart two or three times a week, usually completely wiping out the most beautiful sentences ever written in the English language.    My friends with Macs tell me they never freeze.

George was always pushing me to upgrade.  Without him, I still would be using an Apple IIE.    We started in 1981 with a TI (Texas Instrument for you young ‘uns) which save to a tape recorder.  No pictures only words on the screen.    A few years later, we started on Apples but by 1993, we’d switched over to PCs because of the software.  And I fought George every step because I was comfortable with the previous models.

And now I have an iMac which I don’t now how to use.

But I’m sure I’ll be a much better writer.  Perhaps now I can work on that proposal and first twenty-five pages my agents has requested with out cursing (but only in the nicest, least nasty words) because I can’t finished the sentence without restarting.    I hate to pretend that’s the reason I haven’t done the proposal but it’s as good an explanation as any.  I can only hope she’s note reading this.

I’m writing this blog on the old PC because I can’t figure out how to get into the backdoor on my blog on the new computer.  Someday I will.  Nor can I figure out how to save pictures–someday I will.

Which do you prefer?  A PC or a MAC?  Why?    Please tell me all the hassle with the iMac is worth it.  I’d feel so much better.