Sunday, October 17, 2021

Grocery Shopping 101

 Since my best friend moved close by, I've had the opportunity to go grocery shopping with another person for the first time since my move to NC. And, being the keen observer of people as I am, I've noticed two things that set us apart. 

One is I love grocery shopping and she hates it. While she considers it her biggest chore, I love finding new items to try out and encountering new ways to tempt my taste buds. My rationale for these opposing views is because she has a husband at home who wants fully cooked three course meals a minimum of three times a day, so food in the house means she now has to cook. On the other hand, I don't have anyone pulling up to the table a couple times a day demanding to be fed. I can skip breakfast and steer right to lunch if I'm not in the mood. Or I can have dessert first and then, if I feel like it, fix something more substantial. For me, shopping for groceries means I have a wide assortment of food available and I can eat at leisure, instead of it being a chore. 

The second observation is not so easy for me to understand. While I toss things into the cart willy-nilly,  with the exception of eggs, bananas and, at least for now, pumpkin roll, she carefully lays her food into the cart, keeping the produce separate from the meats, etc. Then, she brings separate bags for frozen foods, and another insulated bag for meats, because, God forbid, the food groups should touch one another. I thought I had an orderly mind, but I think she has me beat. 

So, what kind of shopper are you? Does a tidy, neat grocery cart mean you have a tidy, neat mind? Does a scattered cart reflect the inner workings of a creative mind? Or do you feel none of it matters as long as you bring home the bacon? Inquiring minds want to know. 

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Ready To Hunker?

 My furnace guy paid his semi-annual visit on Friday, getting my house ready for the upcoming winter. It seems like only yesterday he was here to get the unit ready for spring. Where has the year gone? 

2020, with all the Covid shutdowns and restrictions, seemed like the longest year I'd ever lived through. Maybe that's why, by comparison, 2021 has moved with lightning speed. I'm not ready to pack away my porch swing just yet. 

But, with the approaching winter season comes the time to get some serious writing done. There are contests to enter, long-neglected works tugging at my conscious for their moment in the sun, which is ironic, since this season doesn't include a lot of sunny days. I'll keep up with my pool regimen and come up with brilliant scenes while floating which I can use in both my ghostwriting stories and my own manuscripts and try to stay warm. With a newly inspected HVAC system, it shouldn't be too hard. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Am I Entering Hyperphagia?

Lately, I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos from a man in Asheville, NC who encourages black bears onto his porch while he's sitting in his rocker. My friend, who also lives in Asheville, has a healthy respect for the wild bears in her neighborhood, but this guy's boundaries are very loose, although he seems to know a lot about bear behavior. Recently, the man said he was closing the entry gate to his porch since the bears were entering hyperphagia, the period of time when bears prepare themselves physically for their winter hibernation by eating and drinking nonstop. Seems the bears get a bit cranky when they don't find food. 

Fall's coming, without a doubt. The local news is filled with tips on where the most vivid fall foliage is each weekend. 

My freezer is full of food and I've got plenty of work to keep me busy. We don't get a lot of snow here, but enough cold weather to make me cranky. I'm ready to snuggle under my comforter and not come out until Spring. 

Does that mean I'm entering hyperphagia? 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Getting My Groove On

 I had an idea months ago for my ghostwriting client to produce a series about four guys lamenting the lack of ladies in their town. The client gave me the go-ahead, but then realized he needed Christmas stories more than he needed the Lonely Hearts Club series (or whatever he'll end up calling it.) So, I put the idea on the back burner and focused on Christmas. 

Now, I'm resurrecting the series idea and getting back to work on it. I'm nearly 2/3 done with the first book, and am enjoying this concept and the characters, who will appear intermittently throughout the entire series. This should keep me busy until the end of the year. When I sit down in the morning and reread the previous scene in this book, I'm enthusiastic about where the story is headed. It should be a great way to wrap up the year. I'm in the groove.

As for my own story, which was mired in the mud portion of my brain, it's still stuck. All I'm doing is thinking about story lines for books I'll never write. For example, yesterday there was a young couple sitting across from me as I waited for my dinner partner. The guy glanced over at me and told me he was ten days sober. I congratulated him and told him I liked his tats. The woman he was with laughed off my comment, as if someone my age shouldn't even know what a tat was. There's a story line there, if someone wants it. As for me, I'm in the writing groove, but I'm living in the 1860s in Colorado, not modern day North Carolina. Far safer, from my perspective. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Hopelessly Lost

 As most of you know, I'm a plotter who works from a sketchy outline when I compose my manuscripts. None of this writing out of sequence stuff or coming up with a plot twist willy-nilly for me. I like to know where I'm going and how to get there. Some surprises might show up along the way, or the plot line might alter a bit during the writing phase, but I usually have a good idea of the how the story will progress before I start. 

Not so, this time around. 

I wrote the outline and sent it to my writing buddy, who shot it down, starting with the first graph. There were still parts of it that were good, so I took her critique to heart and began again, ironing out the problems. I got the first part of it written, and then looked at my outline again to see where the path was to go from here. 

It was like I was reading a totally different story. Nothing about the manuscript matched any of the outline, except for the name of the hero and the fact he began the story wearing an eye patch as a disguise. 

So, I've spent the last week splashing around in the pool on a floatie, staring at the ceiling and trying out various scenarios in my head. Usually, this works and I come away from my physical therapy sessions with hips that don't ache and a solid idea for the next scene. This past week, though, all I've come away with are good hips. 

How do I get my H/H out of the south with a runaway slave and a belligerent horse? How do they get to participate in hanky-panky while hiding said runaway? What mode of transportation will work? Will the hero give up in disgust and ride off into the sunset on the belligerent horse without a backward glance? 

I'll keep staring at the ceiling until the answers emerge. Or maybe I'll break down and write a new outline. That would definitely make life easier. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Back To School Time

 I'm no parent, but once upon a time, I was a child, and the Labor Day holiday meant the fair was over and your new school shoes had been adequately broken in after two weeks of wear, so you were set for the school doors to open the day after Labor Day. The final week of summer spooled out in long, hot days, lying in a field, staring up at white puffy clouds racing by overhead, as if to escape the walls of school that were closing in on us. 

It wasn't so much that I hated school. I would have rather just been outdoors instead. With my nose in a book, one of my own choosing rather than being told what to read. With my feet bare rather than in ill-fitting shoes. But, I must admit, some of the lessons I learned in school were unexpected and have helped formulate the adult I've become. Case in point:

My best memory of high school was my first day as a sophomore, when I was on the committee to select our class jackets.

A few of us wanted to push the envelope and try a new style but the majority went with the teacher's recommendation and decided what had been popular the last ten years would once again be the norm. I elected not to order one. And for that, the teacher labeled me a rebel. 

I've tried to live up to his assessment of me ever since. Here's to you, Mr. DeMarco. 

And, to anyone who started back to school this week, I offer this advice. Take a breath of the outside air, keep your nose in a book of your own choosing, and run your naked toes through the grass. Keep that rebel spirit alive. You're going to need it as a grown-up.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Christmas Is Nearly Over

 Over the past few months, I've been tasked with writing several Christmas-themed novellas as part of my ghostwriting work. I promised my client two stories for certain, and, if I had time, a third. I turned in the two promised ones, but then he did something not done before by this particular person. He sent me a rough outline of a story he wanted written. Usually, it's been up to me to create the story line and run with it, but this time, he'd put the story together for me. All I had to do was write it. 

Since I sensed this was important to him, I agreed to write a third story. After all, he'd done the hard part and come up with the storyline. I fleshed out his basic idea and began writing the story a few weeks ago. 

I'm closing in on the ending now, and should have it ready to send off early in the week. This story will bring to a close my Christmas story-telling for the year. I'm pleased I got so much accomplished, but come December, it will all start again, this time not in a story. Will it feel like an after-thought?

Sunday, August 29, 2021

What, Me Worry?

 Like most of us who tune in the nightly news, the tendency is to be overwhelmed by the scope of tragedy in the world. A world-wide pandemic coupled with a Cat 4 hurricane setting its sights on already beleaguered Louisiana, and the horrifying scenes coming out of Afghanistan make me want to bury my head in the sand until it's over. I have to keep telling myself I've done what I can to make things easier for myself and let the rest go. Worry will only tie me up in knots and I have too many obligations to let that happen. 

The same holds true for those situations that are closer to home. Health issues are plaguing my friends and family, causing sleepless nights. Again, I realize worrying about it is pointless. I've done what I can to help the situation and the rest is out of my control. 

My good friend is moving for the first time in a long time and she's got a hamster running around in her head with all the things she has to do, the questions that must be answered, the timing of everything, how much of her belongings will fit in her new place, and all the rest. I'd love to be able to take some of the burden off her shoulders, and I've done what I can to make life easier for her. The rest is up to her, and no amount of my worry will help her. 

As for my ghostwriting. I recently responded to an ad for a holiday-themed novella . I've been working on Christmas novellas for several months now and am finishing up the last of my promised ones, so why not sign up for one more? The deadline is a bit off from where most authors aim to get their holiday books into the hands of the public, but once I write the book and get paid for it, it's up to the client to market the book. Again, it's not my worry. 

So, folks, what's keeping you up at night? I hope for all our sakes, it's merely a good book that you can't put down. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Logistically Speaking

 Since I began my writing journey, one thing has become clear to me. I'm a linear thinker. I like working from an outline, even a vague one, since it keeps me pointed in the right direction. While I admire the writers who can write scenes out of sequence and fit them all together later, it's not a talent I'm blessed with. 

Long before I discovered Blake Snyder's beat sheet, I did write a story that wasn't well thought out. I had to keep revising the story line and when I was reading the final draft, I realized I'd put the Christmas celebration ahead of Thanksgiving! That's when I stopped freewheeling it. 

But my logistical nightmares don't stop with my plot ideas. Take yesterday, for instance. I needed to get gas, but as I was getting ready, I ran out of moisturizer. Fortunately, the grocery where I buy my face cream is in the same parking lot as the gas station, so I cleverly thought I'd combine both on my way home from the gym. But as I got halfway down the road, my growling stomach reminded me I hadn't eaten anything yet that morning. Since working out on an empty stomach only means I'll start getting dizzy, I decided to change things around and go to the grocery and get gas before I headed to the gym, since there was a fast-food place there as well. My plan was firmly in place, and I was combining my trips and saving on fuel and time. Good on me. 

But the line for the fast food place was wrapped twice around the building. Changing my plans on the fly yet again, I gassed up and then went into the grocery. I am expecting company next week, so I needed to get a few things for that in addition to my moisturizer. Oh, and then Klondike had their new Reese's peanut butter cup Klondikes in stock and in front of my face. To be fair, the frozen dessert aisle is a mere hop and skip from the aisle where the creams and shampoos are. While I was in the ice cream aisle, I searched for and found an elusive flavor that comes and goes from the aisles. I looked at my shopping cart and realized there was no way I could subject that ice cream to a 45-minute stay in a hot car while I exercised. So my plans for the gym were scratched. I grabbed a bag of Cheetos to eat on my way back home with my ice cream. 

See what I mean? This trip was me putting Christmas before Thanksgiving again. I suck at on-the-fly logistics. Or maybe it was just the ice cream talking. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Weekend

 No, I'm not talking about the singer, the R&B artist with the totally fake name. I'm talking about the actual weekend and when it begins. Let me explain: 

A writing buddy and I were talking about our schedules. I told her I had 3,000 words to go in my story and I'd probably finish it by the weekend. Since it was already Friday afternoon, she pointed out to me that we were already at the weekend. 

But when you're retired from the 9 to 5 world, weekends tend to lose their significance as something different from the week. I count Saturday and Sunday as work days, as a normal part of the week. So, when I say I'll have it done by the weekend, I mean 11:59 pm on Sunday. 

It may be the wrong way to look at the week, but it's my way. And, it works for me. I've still got a bit to write as I pen this blog, but hey, it's only Sunday morning! It'll get it done on my timeline, I'll do a read-through Monday and send it off. The next idea awaits. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Making Something From Nothing

With company in town last weekend, I took some time off from my computer and spent a few days enjoying my adopted state of North Carolina. One of the places we stopped at was the Ball Garden at the Sandhills Community College, where an art installation had been erected several weeks ago and was causing quite the buzz. By weaving together different sized branches and sticks, rooms were created out of nothing.


Complete with windows and doors, these various cubicles towered over us. They were quite unique and wonderful, which got me to thinking about my writing and how similar it is to this art form. 


What's that, you say? How can sticks and twigs possibly be the same as words and paragraphs?

It's very simple. The artist of this stick room creation had an idea. He or she probably sketched out a configuration of the completed work. Then, they started construction, weaving all their piles of twigs and branches together to form a completed room. And, unless I miss my guess, some of these rooms didn't turn out exactly as envisioned, but the end result was a sturdy and striking structure that is quite beautiful in its originality. 

So, too with writing. We start with an idea, and maybe put together an outline of how we imagine the work taking shape. Then, we start the construction of each paragraph, forming chapters to weave the piles of words and sentences into a cohesive unit that's sturdy, striking and quite beautiful. And, unless I miss my guess on this, too, the outline and the finished product vary to some degree, since stories have a way of veering off as they're being written, and bending at points different from what we originally envisioned. In the end, both this art installation and a new manuscript were created out of nothing. 

Then, to top off a perfectly delightful experience, I got to play with my favorite sculpture of all time. I'll have to get away from the computer more often. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Where Are the Lines?

 I'm reading a book right now, called Lady Wallflower, by Scarlett Scott, a new to me author. It's a Regency romance, which our author community has made a most romantic period of time, unless you get too much into the weeds about it. Most Regencies are full of clever dialogue as our hero and heroine get to know each other. Sometimes things get really steamy, bordering on erotica. But what is striking me as unusual with this book is how the author creates one of the most erotic scenes I've ever read without having the hero and heroine even touch one another. 

It was one of the hottest, most erotic scenes I'd read in a long time and I waited breathlessly for the guy to finally break his iron control and touch the woman. When he did, it was just one finger, lightly touching her collarbone. I melted in my seat along with the heroine. I don't know if it was technically erotica, but it was certainly swoon-worthy. Nicely done, Scarlett!

As with so much in the publishing world these days, I think the lines are blurring. And, since I like to be surprised when I read new-to-me authors, I find it refreshing to not know what to expect all the time. 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Inspiration Time

Every author, at one time or another, gets asked the question of where the ideas for their stories come from. And most authors have a simple, generic answer that family, current events, or television shows are the inspiration. For me, most of my ideas come while I'm floating mindlessly in my health club's pool. I prop some floating devices under my arms and rotate my hips while I begin to think of my next book. 

Right now, I'm writing Christmas novellas for my ghostwriter. If I have to think of Christmas in July, I want to be lying in a bed of 85 degree salt water, suspended weightlessly while my thoughts drift.

Today, there was a gentleman in the pool near me, helping his two young daughters with their swimming. He was covered from head to toe with tattoos, which normally you'd think would belong on a surly, motorcycle-riding gunslinger of a guy, but the way he interacted with his girls was very sweet. He was young, good-looking, clean-shaven, and a perfect hero. Just covered in artwork. As I watched him playing with his daughters, and he watched to make sure they didn't get in my way, I thought about a hard-boiled hero with a heart of gold. One who thought Christmas was a useless holiday until he met a woman who could stand up to him and change his mind. 

Were tats even a thing in 1870? 

I need to do my research before I begin the story, but at least it's a grain of an idea. Or should I say a drop of an idea, since we were in the water?

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Knee Deep in a Snow Drift

We're halfway through summer now, and I must say, it's been one of the most weird seasons yet. 

I should be busy promoting my beachey book, Blame It On The Brontes,

which is one of my all-time faves, but instead, I'm trying to write two novellas about Christmas. 

Quite frankly, I'd rather be at the beach instead of knee deep in a snow drift. 

But speaking of drifting, my eyes keep wandering to the porch swing and away from my computer screen. I even volunteered to help a friend clean out her shed to avoid working on my story. I'm finding momentum hard to come by. 

What I need are some Christmasy ideas. Toss me a lifeline, will you? Any and all ideas will be gratefully accepted. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Coming Full Circle

 A few years ago, I left Ohio for the warmer climes. Problem was, while I'd sold my house up north, I hadn't yet found a place in the South. So, for a few months, I became a crasher. Mary and I moved in with my best friend and her husband, in Virginia. They graciously let us camp out with them for a couple months, and my friend and I made more than a few trips to North Carolina, searching for the right place. 

Now it's my friend's turn. It's time for them to live on one floor instead of constantly going up and down stairs. Fortunately, they've decided North Carolina is the place to be. But since their previous trips here have been few and far between, they need time to determine which part of the state is best suited to their needs. Will it be the mountains in the west or a beach community on the east? A big metropolitan city like Raleigh or something smaller and quaint? Hopefully, I'll be able to return the favor and let them camp out here while they're exploring. 

The first step in the process is to get their home in a sellable condition. Having bought and sold more than one house, I'm going to help in that regard. The hunt begins in earnest this weekend. 

And maybe I can get a story line out of it. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Christmas In July

 My career as a writer has taken many twists and turns since I decided I wanted to fulfill a lifelong ambition and write a novel. Several years ago, I added ghostwriting to my resume. 

The gentleman I'm currently working for has asked for series books. My first idea was to write a trilogy, but he wanted four books. Who am I to argue with this? I get paid for writing one more book. I just wrapped up the fourth book and presented my next idea for a four-book series about a gentlemen's poker club, for which I got the go-ahead and began working up the concept for the four books. I wrote the outline for the first book and the first chapter and then came to a screeching halt on the project. 

Why, you ask? 

Because it's July, and any stories with a Christmas theme need to be done and ready for publication by no later than September. My client and I had collaborated on two Christmas stories last year, and he wanted a repeat. So, even though it's 90 degrees outside, I turned up the A/C and put on my Christmas hat.

I need to come up with a couple good solid seasonal ideas and get them done by August. I promised him two, and possibly one additional. I need to get to work. 

Then, and only then, can I get back to my poker game. 

Sunday, June 27, 2021

New To Me Authors

 Here's the way it's supposed to work: A book is offered up for free or 99 cents in the hopes the reader will love it so much they'll go back to Amazon and purchase other books by the author. This is supposed to work best in the cases where the author is brand new to the reader. Or so I've been told...

This particular marketing technique has been preached by publishing industry experts since the invention of e-books. On occasion, I've tried it myself with my own books, with limited success. But recently, I read the blurb for a free book that was just what I needed at the time–a raunchy, laugh-out-loud contemporary set in Vegas. The author was someone I didn't know but at the discounted price I thought, nothing ventured, etc. The book was everything it advertised itself to be, and I got a warm buzz from having read it. Not wishing to be done with raunchy contemporary comedies, I picked up another of the author's books that was offered up for free. Not as good as the first one, but still mildly entertaining. I went for broke on the third one, paying actual money for it. Maybe it wasn't as funny because I actually coughed up money for it? Whatever the reason, I was disappointed. 

Hoping against hope that I could find another book by this author that would rival the first, I scrolled through the list of other options by this person. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me I had purchased one of this author's books in 2019! I ran to my Kindle, and lo and behold, this was not a new-to-me author after all. I'm now reading the book I bought two years ago. Still not as good as Vegas. But then again, destination wedding books have never been my preferred choice. 

So, does the marketing strategy actually work? Well, I'm in the middle of the fourth book by this author, two of which I actually spent money on, and only one of which I'd read again. Unless the author can capture the magic she had in the first book I read, I won't spend any more money on her. If someone asks for my opinion on her, I'll give them my honest answer: Sometimes the magic only happens once. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Reentering Life

The effects of the pandemic are far-reaching, even if you've never come close to the actual illness itself. People have changed the way they work, the way they live, and all of it was unscripted. We figured it out as we went. 

My work as a writer helped me be a step ahead of the rest of the work force, since I was used to working from home, by myself, and communicating via computer and phone. But for a lot of Americans, that scenario became, overnight, the way business was done. Zoom meetings replaced actual face-to-face contact. People gradually began to lose social skills. 

Thankfully, a large percentage of America is now vaccinated, and the infection rate has slowed to a crawl. America is now reopening, a little at a time. I took advantage of this rebirth by doing something I hadn't been able to do in over a year. 

I went to the movies. 

I didn't quite know what to expect. It was a much anticipated movie and, even though it was a Friday matinee, I thought there would be a crowd of folks clamoring for a seat. But it seems Covid has made everyone cautious. Only about a third of the seats ended up being occupied, and we sat a respectable distance from one another. Covid has changed the way we interact with one another. 

As a romance writer, I can't help but wonder if this shift in the way we respond to each other will affect story lines in the next couple of years. Even without a mask, we're still guarded. Will it crop up in our creative endeavors as well? 

What do you think?

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Book Boyfriends

Every female reader of romance novels has at one time or another, developed a crush on one of the dashing heroes in the books they pick up. Do you remember your heart pounding over one of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton brothers? How about Jamie Fraser in Outlander? Or, if you're like me and go way back, how about Nicholas Stafford from Jude Deveraux's A Knight in Shining Armor?

It's one thing to develop a crush on the hero when you're reading the book–that means the author has done her job well. But it's quite another thing when the author develops the crush on the hero she's writing about. 

Here's my tale...

For the last several years I've been ghostwriting a series of books for someone else. I turn in the story and it gets published under another name. I hold no rights to it and can never claim I had anything to do with it. This has been a nice setup so far. I get paid for my work up front, and I don't have to spend any of that money promoting the book, or take time away from my writing to try to push sales of said book. For my latest endeavor, I needed to develop a hero who had survived the Civil War. 

My first idea was to have my hero be a spy for the newly-formed Pinkerton Agency. However, every able-bodied man in his 20s or 30s would have been expected to fight unless he had some kind of disability. What kind of disability could I create for the man to keep him from the battlefield so he could do his spy business, but also would have appeal to the ladies? After pondering this for several days, I invented Eye-Patch Guy. Since I'd worn an eye patch as a child as a cure for amblyopia, I was drawn to my invented hero. Which got me to thinking about other men over the years who wore eye patches. Sammy Davis, Jr. came to mind, as did Dan Crenshaw, now serving in Congress. Yes, men with eye-patches were sexy, at least to me. The more I thought about creating this man's story and then giving him away, the more I realized I couldn't do so. 

What to do? 

I couldn't abandon Eye-Patch Guy. So, I created another Civil War hero for my ghostwriting tale, and he's coming along nicely. I'm holding on to the one who makes my heart flutter. I'll write his story and publish it under my own name. Whether I get paid for writing it is not important at this point. What is important is I'll be able to point to him with pride. 

Once I give him a name other than Eye-Patch Guy. And come up with a heroine worthy of him. 

Any ideas?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Stepping Back In Time

Part of my fascination with historical fiction is so I can take trips to historical American destinations and claim I'm doing "business" rather than just goofing off. Such was the case last week, on Memorial Day. While most Americans were gathered round the grill or waving flags at a parade honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, I was honoring our past by visiting one of only two remaining covered bridges in North Carolina.


The Pisgah Bridge was built in 1911 by J. J. Welch. Cost to build this chunk of Americana was a whopping $40. It is 54 feet in length and is a one-lane bridge. I tried to ignore the graffiti that mars the walls of the bridge and focus on the design instead. 

It spans a lovely little river, and there's a scenic trail that goes from one side of the river to the other, via a foot bridge. This gem from the past is only about an hour from my home, yet it took me three years to get here. Worth every mile. Now, when my hero or heroine need to cross a wooden bridge, I'll remember the sound my feet made as I walked from one side to the other. 

I'll be able to describe the muddiness of the water and the silence of the surrounding forest. (I'll leave out the high-pitched screams of the children who were also at the bridge.)

The other bridge is part of the Appalachian Trail, on the far western side of the state. I'll have to get to it someday. Right now, the little Pisgah Bridge is enough. 

How about you? Where do you go to search for inspiration?

Sunday, May 30, 2021

What's In a Name?

 Recently, I decided to dust off a manuscript that's been languishing under the proverbial bed for years and redo it. I blame Covid for giving me too much time to think about things. This is the story that started me on my writing path but which never saw the light of day, despite being written and rewritten numerous times. 

Part of my redo is to rename my main characters. No one knows anymore, or cares if they do, that Mary Jane used to be a code name for marijuana. 

And the hero's name needs to change also, since basing your characters on real persons can be filled with all kinds of landmines that are better avoided. He can still be from the same era, just not bear the name of a famous person.

So, new names are in the works. Along with a new title for the story. What, you might ask, am I keeping from the old manuscript? 

That's yet to be determined, other than the basic premise,  Time travel has always held an appeal for me. It's a good way to combine my love of history with my enjoyment of contemporary situations. And, after the crazy year we've all been through, it'll be fun to bounce back and forth from the past to the present, and figure out which is the more harrowing. 

As Rachel Maddow is fond of saying, watch this space.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Is It Just Me?

 Finally, during the latter part of the week, our temps here in the Sandhills have turned seasonal. It seems like summer has taken its sweet old time getting here. My office is set up in my Carolina Room, which is mostly comprised of windows. So while I add another chapter to my ghostwriting story, my eyes seem to be straying to the outdoors more and more often. 

I keep telling myself I need to put 1,000 words at a minimum on the page before I can get into my shorts and head out to my swing where I can breathe in the warm air and feel the sun on my skin. But these days, when the sky is Carolina blue and the open window carries the scent of freshly mown grass, those 1,000 words are hard to come by. 

Each writer has his or her own method for getting words from their head to the page, and no two people are alike, just as no two stories are alike. Usually, my method is by daily word count, but some days are harder than others. Those are the days I pray for rain, so I'm not tempted to head out of doors before my goal is reached. It must be the time of year. Keeping my head down and my eyes on the keyboard must be a seasonal thing. Right? 

Or is it just me?

Sunday, May 16, 2021


 Regardless of what CDC says, I'm reluctant to give up my mask or get on a plane, even being fully vaccinated against Covid. So, when a friend invited me to join her at a local B&B I jumped at the opportunity. 

For two days and nights, I let someone else cook breakfast for me. I roamed through the historic district of one of the small towns near my house, entering shops I'd driven by many times but never wandered into. I took care of a few chores that I'd been putting off, since I knew my friend would be busy for a couple hours each day. Best of all, I got to spend some quality time with my friend, who is always rushed when she does come to town and we can barely carve out some time for a quick lunch. Oh, and I found an autographed copy of a new book by my favorite author in the local bookstore. Who could ask for anything more? 

So, if you're starting to stick your toe into the real world again, but want to take baby steps, I highly recommend a staycation. It will do your psyche a world of good. 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Fine Fiction or Smut?

I recently read on Facebook a conversation one of my writing buddies recently had with an acquaintance. My friend, who I'll call Ramona, is one feisty lady who has had a long career as an author and who is known for her sharp wit. When the woman found out Ramona wrote romance, she rolled her eyes and told Ramona the woman's mother used to read that smut. Then, realizing she may have offended Ramona, the woman tried to walk back her statement. 

Ramona was having none of it. 

After finding out Ramona had over 130 books already in print and more at a publisher, waiting to be released, the woman muttered something about how nice it must be. Ramona replied that most days it was nice, except when she ran across someone who referred to her work as smut. 

Ramona's final comment in the telling of this story was to say she'd forget the woman tomorrow, but had no doubt the woman would always remember her. 

You have to develop a thick skin if you're going to be a writer. I've been to events where the romance writers are placed in the back of the room while "true" fiction writers get center stage. Romance writers are the lifeblood of the publishing world, but industry respect doesn't necessarily follow. 

Yet, we persist. Especially in this age of Covid, hugs are few and far between, and a good romantic story about two people finding love feels much like a hug. The story line wraps you in warmth as you quickly turn the pages and you think about the story long after you've set the book down. 

So, does that qualify as fine fiction? If it makes you stop and think about the characters and how they develop over time? If the story brings to life the setting, so you can smell the freshly cut grass of the suburbs or feel the sand between your toes at the beach? If you cry along with the characters at the loss of a life, or your heart starts pumping wildly during a harrowing scene? 

Is that fine fiction? Or is it merely smut? 

You be the judge. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Favorite Time of Year

 For years now, when asked what my favorite time of year is, I always answered Autumn. Especially in the mountains, the display of color when the leaves change takes my breath away and brings a tear to my eye.


But now that Spring has finally come, I have to admit, my favorite ritual is about to take place. This weekend, I'm packing away the heavy winter duds and pulling my shorts out of the hope chest. So, I think now that I'm older, I look forward to Spring more than I do Autumn. 

If my recent trip to Ohio taught me anything, it's that I can't stand Winter. The snow might be momentarily pretty as it's falling, but once it's on the ground, not so much. The air is frigid, and once the temperature does warm up enough to melt the snow, mud puddles form and there's nothing pretty about them. Give me the heat of summer any day. 

So, how about you? What season is your favorite? I'm sitting here in my shorts and t-shirt, awaiting your answers.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

A New Vacation Movie Idea?

 If you follow this blog, you know I was planning a road trip for the first time in over a year. I took my new-to-me car in for an oil change, thinking that was the proper thing to do, but the dealer, whose service department is terrible, dislodged some tube in the engine that helps cut down on pollution, and my "Check Engine" light came on the next time I started the car. I took it to my regular mechanic and they said they don't work on Mini Coopers, so I had to scramble to find a reliable mechanic two days before I was to leave. That done, my sister arrived and we left for Ohio. 

Long story short, during our festivities, my sister fell and broke her ankle in two places. She got a temporary cast put on, and we were stuck on how to get her back home. The road trip was nine-hours in duration so I knew she couldn't ride with me. My brother ended up flying with her directly to the city she lives in and then deadheaded back to Ohio. 

Oh, and did I mention I had nightmares my first two nights there? And that the "Check Engine" light came back on? Yes, it was great to see my siblings. In fact, the one sibling who couldn't make it was so unhappy that she couldn't be included that she photoshopped herself into the picture of us. 

Next time I think I'll fly. Alone. But I think it's a perfect start for a Lifetime movie.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

On The Road Again

 For someone who loves to wander, this past year and a half has been most trying. My introverted nature became even more so, and my usual tactics of getting out and exploring in order to stretch myself went by the wayside. But now, fully vaccinated, I'm ready to hit the road again. 

I've had a "new to me" car since last October and the longest trip I've made in it so far has been the twelve mile round trip to the nearest grocery store. It's time we both stretched our wings a bit.

So, shortly, I'm hitting the road with one of my sisters, heading to Ohio for a few days to see everyone that I can cram into four days' time. It'll be a quick up and back, but will give me enough time to feel like things are slowly returning to a new normal. We're packing food so we will be limiting our exposure on the road, and will wear our masks as much as possible. But we'll at least be taking the first steps to what used to be routine. Maybe I'll even encounter my next story idea while on the road. 

Wish me happy trails!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

And The Winner Is!

Last week, I wrote about how my one of my entries into a local contest made the final cut of fifteen great opening lines from over 500 entries. I had entered three options, and this is the one that became a finalist: 

She needed some legal advice, or a husband, and fast.  

My entry didn't win, or even come in the silver or bronze position. Rather, it was one of the twelve others who were judged the cream of the crop. I'm thrilled to have made it to the final cut, because the competition was heady and fierce. And I agreed with the judges on the winning entry, submitted by a gentleman from Columbus, OH. Here it is: 

The kindergarten teacher told us that one baby in four was born Chinese, and being the fourth child in the family I naturally figured I was Chinese and needed to learn the language.

Very tongue-in-cheeky and made me laugh. You can't ask for more than that from an opening line. 

How about you? Do you agree with the judges?


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Pick Your Poison

 Last week, I talked about great beginnings to stories. The reason for the topic stemmed from a fellow author here in the Sandhills who publishes an amusing blog each week, mixing a dash of history, a side order of applicable famous quotes, and a sprinkling of insight. I look forward to reading it every Sunday afternoon. 

A few weeks ago, he decided to run a contest. He assembled a guest panel of judges and told his readers he'd accept up to three entries from each person. The only rule was the entries couldn't be from already published works, but rather, works in progress. I was beyond excited to get the news earlier this week that, of the over 500 entries received, one of mine made it into the top fifteen finalists! He said there was no clear winner among the fifteen, so he was sending the small list back to his judges for a consensus. There will be three winners and twelve runner-ups, but all the finalists will be featured in his blog this afternoon. 

I don't know yet which of the three I submitted made the cut, so until the official announcement, you all can choose your favorite. Here they are: 

1) Johanna Taylor stopped crying when she hit the Virginia state line. 

2) Wisteria Campbell felt the weight of the necklace as if it were an albatross around her neck. 

3) She needed some legal advice, or a husband, and fast. 

Pick your poison. I'll let you know the one that finaled next week. 

Sunday, March 28, 2021

New Beginnings

Does your favorite book have a great opening line?

There's a gentleman here in the Sandhills region of North Carolina who is a collector of quotes from famous and not-so-famous people. Each Sunday, he shares with his followers a sampling of quotes that correspond to events of the day. He recently asked his readers to send in their favorite opening lines from various published works. I perused my stash of favorite books, and my own published works, searching for a killer opening line or two. Other than one from Jayne Ann Krentz about the screams in the insane asylum, I came up empty. Which made me realize a good opening line is hard to find. 

Opening lines can make or break a story. Stephen King has confessed he often spends months crafting his opening lines. They must entice the reader, make that person want to know more about this world you're creating. Here's how King defines opening lines: 

"An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this." 

Snoopy gets the credit for popularizing the often ridiculed opening line from the book "Paul Clifford" by Edward Bulwer-Lytton: 

This exercise is making me take another look at my WIP. Here's the opening line at present: Wisteria Campbell felt the weight of the necklace as if it were an albatross around her neck.

Any suggestions to improve upon it will be gratefully accepted. And Stephen, if you're reading this, get back to me in a couple months with your take, okay? 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Questioning Behavior

 I've noticed recently, on Facebook, in passing conversation, and within my own family, that often, the first question asked, even before the "How are you?" is "Have you gotten your shot yet?" 

I'm planning a road trip next month, and I'm already obsessing over how many masks to take, if I should pack water and snacks to lessen our interactions with others, how much disinfectant is needed in the public bathrooms along the way. Since this is a family get-together and we've all been vaccinated, our chances of coming into contact with the deadly disease is decreased, but there are people we'll run into along the way who don't have the benefit of the vaccine. 

Someone recently told me she'd put her trust in the Lord rather than in science, and he'd take her when it was time. To me, that was a very narrow-minded point of view. She can feel the way she wants, but what about all the people she's in contact with each day? Such reckless behavior...

So, what does this all have to do with writing, you ask? As one who is known for finding analogies where there is none, I relate this reckless behavior with writing a book before you study how to write. Regardless of your genre, you need to study your craft. Many fine books on the subject of writing exist, most  of which are created by industry leaders like Stephen King and Janet Evanovich. A nuts and bolts book, relied on by many, is Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. A more recent entry, Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody, more narrowly defines how to craft a novel. 

Add in a dose of study of the English language, and you are prepared to write a book that has a good plot, is free of typos, and is not a waste of the reader's time. If not, you'll end up with a book that few will want to read. You may be able to say you're a published author, but your reckless behavior will make for a very small audience. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021


I've been hearing the term "ghosting" a lot lately. According to Wikipedia, here's the definition:

Ghosting is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of ceasing all communication and contact with a partner, friend, or similar individual without any apparent warning or justification and subsequently ignoring any attempts to reach out or communication made by said partner, friend, or individual.

For me, ghosting means something entirely different. For the past several years, I've been ghostwriting novels that will never have my name on them. I've just finished book number ten for one of my favorite clients, and he's ordered eight more. I'll be busy for the rest of the year at this rate. I still get to perform the part of writing I enjoy–the creative part–and I can ignore the parts I don't like–marketing, design, promotion, etc. Not to mention I don't have to wait for royalty payments to come in months down the road and pray that I can maybe eke out enough money to cover the costs of the promotion I had done. 

Of course, all this ghostwriting cuts into the time I have to work on my own stories. I may not publish any books this year that carry my own name on them. I've got a couple of ideas kicking around in my head, so I never say never. But for right now, I'm content to write for someone else. 

So, in a way I am ceasing communication and contact without warning. Because I'm ghostwriting, I'm practicing ghosting. Who knew?