Vintage Romance-Romantic Suspense-Cozy Mystery

The Word Place Blog
A little about anything for anybody
Posted 3 times weekly




Blogging in Our Time: Reactions to a crisis

 In keeping with the “times”, I chose the theme of reactions to crisis for free writing in my journal this week. There are many, many ways to react, but these three—blame, verbal attacks, physical violence-- jumped out at me. Certainly we’re seeing all of them in our current society.


Today I’ll share what I wrote about verbal attacks here. Keep in mind, it’s not a complete story, just a snippet.


She’d heard it all before: lazy, stupid, trying to sabotage my career, wrong priorities, no fashion sense, but this time, rather than causing her to turn away, she faced him until he ran out of steam. Then she said, “Just let me go.”

His face hardened. “Never!”

~~

When she was sure he was asleep in the guest room—they hadn’t shared a bed in years—she took out the small case of childhood keepsakes she’d protected for years and double-checked the suitcase she’d kept packed for the last six months, and let herself out of the house through the sliding doors opening from her master suite onto a small flagstone terrace.

At the end of the street across the rolling lawn, freedom—love--waited in a mud-spattered pickup. “You’re sure about this, Ginny?”

You’re sure you’ve forgiven me for making the wrong choice fifteen years ago?”

I waited for you, didn’t I?”

He hefted the two cases into the back and opened the passenger door for her.

She didn’t hesitate. “Where are we going?”

Smiling as he slid behind the wheel, he reached for her hand. “Home, my love. We’re going home.”

~~

I’d love to have some reactions here. For example, can you find clues as to why Ginny made the choice between the two men fifteen years ago? What will happen next? Will there be a “happily-ever-after or physical violence?

Email me—judy@judynickles.com and chime in. (No, I’m not collecting email addresses for a newsletter. They annoy me, and I won’t annoy you!)


~~Posted March 27



Exile or Opportunity?

So how is your exile going? Or are you out and about, daring any little pronged virus to come near you?

I decided to err on the side of caution and stay in, but that doesn’t mean I’m climbing the walls. My planner has every hour scheduled—from prayer and devotion time, to walking, writing, chores, and the nightly spa hour! And, I have a list of weekly goals to accomplish.

The particular planner I’m trying out this year has a space labeled “gratitude” under every day. What am I thankful for? I can think of a lot of things not just related to this unfortunate situation. I begin everyday by thanking God for all sorts of things—and then end it by recounting the blessings of the day. Maybe saying thank you for a day of sunshine doesn’t sound like much, but after a winter of more gray, gloomy days with rain, it’s a definite praise the Lord when the sun breaks through!

I have groceries (and toilet paper, but don’t tell anyone about that!), plenty to do in the house, books and periodicals to read, and music to lift my spirits to another plain. I get up on schedule every morning (except for the Saturday sleep-in), dress, fix my hair and my face though there’s no one to see it but me, and I’m ready for the day. So are the kitties who eagerly wait outside the bedroom door for their breakfast. Poor starving babies—you’d think the canned food of which they get a very small portion in the mornings was all they had to eat in a week. Not.

Staying off the news, except for a twice-daily check of One America News and maybe one other network where I get facts rather than opinion, is a big help. Social media and texting is fun, too, but I try not to overdo it.

The situation is serious—no doubt about it. But the sky isn’t falling, and the world isn’t coming to an end. People’s true colors are showing when they hoard and don’t leave enough for others, or when they price gouge (our state’s attorney general is going after that in a big way) privately or under cover of a business. The media has already shown its dark side. They’re having a field day with this, but in the end, they’re the ones who look foolish.

It’s a good time for those of us with some sense to take stock. (Those without any ought to do the same, but they won’t.) Fear will only cripple us.

I heard someone say the other day that the excuse of “I don’t have time” doesn’t hold water now. NOW we have time, so what do we want to do with it?

The weather here on Wednesday is predicted to be in the 70s with sunshine. I’m already planning to pack a picnic lunch and some reading material long overdue to be perused and noted, and head out to one of the nearby lakes. A day soaking up some vitamin D will be a good break in the week. It’s free, it’s safe, and it’s doable.

So how are you managing your new normal? If you’d like to share, email me, and I’ll post your ideas here later this week or next—either credited or anonymously.


~~Posted March 25




Grab that idea before it gets away...

Most interviewers have one standard question in common—and it’s legitimate, because readers often want to know where writers get their ideas for stories: Where do you get your ideas for stories? In my opinion, stories are everywhere. I only wish I had time to write them all! Perhaps something in this list will flip the light switch for you, and you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before! (Don’t forget to share!)

  • Old family stories/poignant trivia of tragedy, dishonor, heroism, lost love, even violence stumbled on through genealogical research—or, even better, found out by accident, especially when you weren’t supposed to know!

  • Causes of death on death certificates which make you stop and think—even wonder

  • Obituaries—survivors or lack of same, former unusual occupations for the time, places of birth, military service, hints of nostalgia about past lives, and a good source for period character names

  • Newspaper articles on startling finds in/history of old buildings, interviews with people who’ve lived history (war veterans, etc.)

  • Travel brochures—chock full of history, ideas for settings

  • Road signs—names of rivers, creeks, bridges, small towns

  • Historical markers—who passed this way before and why?

  • Backs of menus—what did this restaurant/bar really used to be?

  • Song titles/lyrics—conjuring up bygone eras or contemporary life situations

  • Overheard conversations (please, no X-rated!)

  • Calendars—special dates, historic dates, unusual dates

  • Coffee table books—pictures to inspire and make your imagination take flight

  • Inscriptions or notes in old (antique) books or something found tucked between the pages

  • Tours—historic, ghost walks, even home exhibitions

  • Museums—too much to mention! But stop and look, read labels, think about the building itself

  • Antique shops/flea markets—forgotten treasures which mattered once to someone somewhere

  • Observation: people watching at airports, malls, in coffee shops and restaurants, in church

And always, always, ALWAYS carry a notebook in your purse or briefcase! Ideas are fleeting, even brilliant ones, and you don’t want to lose sleep trying to remember what you shouldn’t have forgotten!


Here’s a funny note to end this post: I wrote this so long ago I couldn’t remember if I really wrote it or saved it from somewhere! Apparently I submitted it somewhere on February 16 of who-knows-what-year—or intended to anyway. It wasn’t picked up for publication, because I could’t find it online.


So I resorted to one of the free “plagerism checkers” and got a score of 100% unique. It sounds like me, but I wanted to make sure before I published it here.


~~Posted March 23

Coming Soon: 

Your Own Personal Social Distancer!

Attention!

Soon every citizen will be issued two yardsticks superglued end to end. In case you have forgotten your elementary school math, this equals six feet—the decreed Social Distance to be kept between individuals at all times.

  1. You must have this social distancer with you at all times when you step outside your front or back door. This includes taking out the trash, checking the mail, and letting Rover relieve himself.

  2. You must hold the social distancer at the ready in one hand when you walk down the street, even if there is no one around except Sammie Squirrel or Bambi.

  3. Make sure it is held straight out in front of you as you approach the door of any business which may still be open. If someone is in front of you, do not step forward until his backside has been inside for 30 seconds.

  4. Be sure you can carry any purchases you make with one hand, because the other hand must hold onto the social distancer at all times. This is, of course, assuming there’s anything in the store to purchase.

  5. When checking out, make sure you keep the social distancer moving from front to back lest someone creep up on you from behind or step back on you from the front.

  6. When exiting the store, follow the 30-second-through-the-door rule.

  7. If someone moves past the tip of your social distancer, give only one warning before poking any vulnerable spot. Hard. All laws against assault with a deadly weapon are suspended for the duration of the emergency.

  8. The standard reply for “Ow! You poked me! is always “You poked me first!”

  9. Be sure to carry the social distancer with you to all medical appointments. Let the doctor or the dentist figure out how to examine you at a distance of six feet. They are the professionals. (It is entirely possible they won’t even be able to enter the small examining room, but let that be a lesson to them to demand larger.)

  10. The social distancer is also useful for skewering the stray roll of toilet paper someone missed on the shelf.


Dear Reader, you understand all this was written tongue-in-cheek. At times like this, we have to find humor even in the most insane circumstances.

Stay in if you can—stay warm—stay safe—stay well--and remember:

God’s got this!

(And don’t hold your breath waiting for your social distancer to arrive.)

~~Posted March 20


Everybody loves 

a good ghost story...

 My first introduction to ghosts was Washington Irving's classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Who couldn't be sucked into the story of poor Ichabod Crane and his wild ride to nowhere? My next favorite memory is Carolyn Keene's Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. I could well imagine mysterious doings behind that creaking door! So is it any wonder that I like to inject a ghost into many of my stories.

Even people who don’t believe in ghosts per se (I don’t) can still admit to loving a good ghost story.

Here’s a link to one you shouldn’t miss, complete with pictures, text, and even a video. Someday I’m going to take myself to Monticello AR and visit the Allen House.

Here's their website  in case you want to consider a visit yourself! 

Meanwhile, I may post a ghost story of my own next week!

~~Posted March 18



Our Own Worst Enemies


As a child growing up in the post-war years of the late forties and early fifties, our common “enemy” was the idea that some foreign country (e.g. Russia) was going to drop an atomic bomb on us. To that end—in our naivete—we had regular “air raid drills” in school. At the sound of the alarm, we’d drop to the wooden floor under our desks and cover our heads and necks. Little did we know such caution would do absolutely nothing to protect us from the effects of radiation released by the feared bomb.

A few people even built underground bomb shelters in their back yards. Of course, these came in handy during tornado season, especially after a tornado blew away a good section of town and killed eleven people in 1953. For a few years after that, even if one’s home and family hadn’t been affected by the deadly storm, anxiety flared at the sight of angry clouds on the West Texas horizon.

Then there were the killer polio epidemics of those years before Salk and Sabin came up with their life-saving vaccines. Our fears were manifested in the shutting down of public gathering places like movie theaters and swimming pools. I can’t remember now if Sunday School classes were temporarily dismissed, but I well remember the fear engendered in us by the very word polio.

In addition, our childish vocabularies were introduced to new words like iron lung, braces, crippled...and even a new understanding that death played no favorites. Fear lived among us. We were unashamedly afraid.

And now fast-forward some eighty years. We are afraid again—not of foreign powers, though some are blatantly eager to destroy America—not of disease (recently COVID-19/the corona virus)--not of the certain spring and summer storms—but rather, we now have more reason to be afraid of each other.

Don’t share the same political beliefs? Kill them all!

A Christian? White supremacists! Racists! Any ‘phobia’ you can think of and then some!

A patriot? You can’t love a country like this!


It’s truly anything goes—no holds barred. Say what you will, assault at will, make accusations without concern for truth, blame everyone else for everything, threaten without fear of being held accountable, spew hatred and lies without concern. I could go on and on.

And now we have a new crisis with which to beat each other up—the corona virus is going to get us all! A frenzy of hoarding has broken out—even a black market which smacks of those who got what they wanted during World War II without regard for the needs of others, especially the soldiers fighting on the front.

We are afraid, and we have every reason to be. But not of the corona virus. There are safety precautions to hopefully stop its spread, and the majority of cases aren’t life-threatening. Still we are afraid.

We are afraid of each other because we have become our own worst enemies.  


~~Posted March 16



What's New 

Isn't Always "In"

Occasionally I get sample magazines in the mail and enjoy reading them even though I rarely subscribe. In one of the newest issues to land on my doorstep, someone wrote an illustrated recommendation for updating my dressing table!

For $39 I can have a compartmentalized holder for my makeup brushes. Fifty-four dollars will buy a fancy tissue dispenser. (Heaven forbid we use the cardboard box the tissues come in!) Keeping my everyday jewelry handy on a geometrically-sculptured holder can be done for $25. And finally, a hand mirror in a cheetah pattern will let me be beautiful from all angles at a mere $38.

Please.

I keep my makeup brushes in a nice glass jar which once housed a candle. It cleaned up nicely. (I wash them in a plastic container now emptied of lunch meat.) The jewelry I wear most often is housed in nice compartmentalized plastic boxes from the Dollar Tree. Rings nestle in a heart-shaped glass box, the origins of which have long since been forgotten. That tacky tissue box hides behind a makeup mirror past its prime but still functional. Other oft-worn accessories repose in the ceramic candy box made by my grandmother when she was into that sort of thing. Lighting the entire vanity is a lamp which once brightened her living room, safely rewired by a dear friend who knew how.

And every item is carefully arranged on a dresser scarf hand-embroidered by my grandmother. I must have two or three dozen of them!

Now—I’m not saying these new stylish (funky) vanity must-haves aren’t someone’s cup of tea. They’re just not mine. The total on my handy-dandy Dollar Tree calculator says it would cost me $156 to bring home all of the items described above.

Please.

I’m a make-doer, a use up type, a recycle person. The smug feeling of accomplishment when I discover a new use for something is priceless. The old items with a family history and warm memories can’t be bought and sold for mere money.

The greatest compliment I’ve ever received is from people who visit, look around, and say, “This house is you.” From the shabbiest to the newest, from the plainest and most practical to the occasional impulse buy, my house is my home.

I’m happy here.

~~Posted March 8




So Long Ago and Far Away

About a million letters in the gold Schrafft Chocolates box. That’s what Sandra thought anyway, until she counted them. Only one hundred forty-seven, most of them on thin V-mails. It hurt to think of burning them, but she’d never leave behind words meant only for her. For now, she re-tied them with a frayed pink hair ribbon, the one he said looked like peppermint in her hair, and laid them back in the box.

About a million men. That’s how many they said stormed the beaches at Normandy that day. Pete was just one. He wrote to her later about how the Channel was so rough that the nets they used to climb down into the landing craft were almost parallel with the water. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it into the boat, much less to the beach.”

He’d made it in and even off the beach and onto the road leading inland among the hedgerows. That’s when the real trouble started, he said. He said that’s when he knew he wasn’t going to make it home in one piece, or maybe not at all. “It’s rough, Sandy,” he wrote. “I’m glad you’ll never know just how bad it really is. If I get home, don’t ask me to talk about it, because I won’t.”

Sandra lifted the lid and caressed the letters. It had taken her three days to read them all again, but she wanted him to be fresh in her mind before she made this trip. Had it been so long ago? He was as real to her now as he was the day he squeezed her one last time before making a dash for the train already beginning to move along the platform. As long as she lived, he’d never be older than he was that day—just twenty-two. She was seventeen.

You’re in love with love and a uniform,” her mother said. “You’ll get over him.” Her older sister Yvonne said she’d wasted her life. Did two degrees and thirty years at the local junior college count as a waste? Sandra didn’t think so.

A lot of boys like Pete sat in her classes. She watched them go off to other wars and wondered how many came back, though she never knew. Mostly she tried not to think about it. It was enough to know the lessons of history: Men fought wars. Men died. Nothing changed.

Leaning her head against the crisp white cloth on the headrest of the train seat, she closed her eyes and thought about the first time she ever saw Pete. A lanky cotton-headed boy, his fair skin sunburned from working outdoors, he was living at the CCC camp just outside of town. He winked and called her a cute kid when she sat down beside him at the soda fountain where Yvonne worked.

She could tell he was interested in Yvonne, but it was equally plain Yvonne wasn’t interested in him. She had bigger fish to fry, like Milt, the captain of the high school football team which had just won the state championship. When Yvonne snubbed him, Pete turned his attention to Sandra, but in a brotherly sort of way. She was only twelve then.

He came into town every Saturday afternoon, always alone and with a willing ear to listen to her adolescent problems. He said he had a little sister of his own back home in West Texas. Yvonne tattled on her, and Mamma said it wasn’t a good idea for Sandra to sit in the back booth at Bramble’s Drug Store every Saturday afternoon with an older boy from that place out there, but she did it anyway. When the camp closed, and Pete went home, she felt like she’d lost part of herself.

It was funny how things worked out, running into him again four years later on the same stool at the soda fountain when he came back for basic training at Camp Payne. “You’ve changed,” they both said at the same time and then laughed. He didn’t even ask about Yvonne, who was married to Milt by then and had two kids.

She cajoled Mamma into asking him for Sunday dinner. He even showed up early, went to church with them, helped with the dishes, and then asked her mother if he could take her downtown to the movies. They went to see Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and afterwards danced all the way to her front door. Mamma heard them laughing and came out to see what was going on. When they told her, she said they were being silly.

The next time they met at the drug store, he asked about her father. “He left when I was a baby. That’s why Mamma’s the way she is.”

He didn’t say he was sorry, just, “I wondered.” Then he told her about his parents and kid sister and scribbled their names and address on a napkin. “I’d like for you to meet them someday.” She still had the napkin, and eventually she’d met his family, but without him.

The day he took the jewelry box out of his pocket, she knew what was coming. Not a proposal. They’d talked about that and agreed it wasn’t the right time. What he’d bought her at Dorner's was a heart-shaped locket. “It’s real silver, just like my feelings for you are real.” They went to Woolworth and spent a quarter in the little photography booth so she’d have pictures to put inside.

Without opening her eyes, she touched the locket beneath her blouse and smiled. She’d worn it every day for the last forty-five years and left written instructions with the funeral director that nobody should take it off. Yvonne or one of her know-it-all girls would try if someone didn’t watch them.

She felt the train stop and opened her eyes to green French countryside. A feeling of having come home to this far-away place stirred inside her. The porter, who’d been surprised at her fluent French, helped her with her luggage. He even carried her bags to the car waiting to take her to the inn the travel agency assured her was within walking distance of what she wanted to see.

~~~~~

It was good to sleep in a bed again after a succession of planes and trains. After a substantial breakfast which included plenty of strong coffee, she changed into her walking shoes and picked up the all-weather coat the travel agent told her she would need, even in June.

About a million graves, she thought as she paused to take in the white crosses and Stars of David spilling across the lush emerald grass. Well, maybe not a million, but too many. One too many for sure. From her purse she extracted a slip of paper with the exact location of the one she’d come to see.

All the graves faced west, toward the United States. It was as close to home as these soldiers would ever come. If they were to be reunited with their loved ones, it would have to be here, and here she was. Not to say goodbye. Not to find closure which seemed to be the buzz word today. None of that. She was here to keep a promise to herself.

By the time she stood beside the grave marker, she could feel the strain of the long walk. Supporting herself on the top of the cross, she lowered her trembling body to the damp grass and glanced around to see if she was alone. “Well, Pete, I came. I always said I would.”

With the tip of one finger, she traced the letters of his name. “I’ve had a good life. I hope you know that. We’d have had a good life together, too, but it just didn’t happen that way. We talked about that, how things might not work out, but it’s still all right.”

Sandra shifted her cramped legs into a more comfortable position. “I’ve always felt you were a presence in my life. Yvonne says I’ve lived with a ghost, but you’ve always been real to me.” Pressing her thin, almost-transparent fingers against the carving, she thought she felt his arms around her again.

I’m not staying for the anniversary ceremonies next week. I wouldn’t want to get all weepy over the music and the speeches. Besides, that’s not why I came.”

She looked around. A million men. A million unfinished lives. A million shattered dreams. She put her lips against the cold stone. “Years ago I cried a million tears, Pete. I’ve told you a million times how much I love you.”

It was harder getting up than getting down. Her breath grew ragged with the effort, and she had to wait before she could speak again. “And I lived a million days just for this one more with you.”



So Long Ago and Far Away” received an Honorable Mention in The Writer’s Journal (no longer in publication) for a story beginning with the words “about a million…”







Silent Sentinels of the Past

Another one of my favorite historical places (or what’s left of it!) is the site of the Windsor Ruins in Mississippi between Vicksburg and Natchez. You’ll find a bit more of its history here.

The day I was traveling that direction with the intention of stopping, the road was closed—go figure! I pulled off to turn around and ran into two men in a pickup who said they’d just been there and that I could access it by a back road. Tempting but common sense kicked in! So I just turned around and continued on my way south via the Natchez Trace.

I did stop at a visitor information center where the young lady gave me a ton of information and told me that, sadly, it was more or less roped off due to people chipping away pieces of the remaining columns or some such nonsense. Sad.

The existing floor plan was drawn from memory, and as I understand it, there are no photographs of it as it once stood in all its glory. However, I’m using it as the (fictionalized) setting of the new novel, The Legacy of Diamond Springs.

Check my Pinterest board for more photographs of the ruins and the old family cemetery. Rel


Related Articles about Windsor

Gone Forever

     Old houses have always held a special fascination for me. I think that interest even predated reading Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase. (Of course, all old houses had hidden staircases and more!)

   Beautiful 19th and early 20th century homes once graced my hometown, but most are gone now. They fell victim to a new generation of outsiders who built banks and parking lots, intending to turn a sleepy old country cow town into a big city. Well, it’s a big city now—and I want to cry every time I go back. It’s ugly and dirty. Businesses come and go, and the windows of empty buildings stare like empty sockets in a skull. Few people remember the quiet tree-lined streets and stately homes of the town’s early pioneer founders, the hometown businesses where one was not just a customer but rather an honored guest, and the slow, easy pace of the downtown sidewalks and streets.

   All of that is gone now forever.

   It hurts to grieve for the place which shaped me, so, I drown my sorrows in the sad history of the antebellum South and rejoice in the remnants which have been carefully restored and preserved.

   One such magnificent structure no longer exists, but if it did...the stories the walls could tell! Belle Grove Plantation in Iberville Parish LA, completed in 1857, died a slow death. Then, arsonists finished her off, and unlike the Phoenix, she could not rise from the ashes.

   You can revisit her in this poignant video, Death of a Queen, and in the shorter clips here. Then browse my Pinterest Board (88 pins) for more.


RIP, Beautiful Lady.

Belle Grove Plantation

1857-1952


~~Posted February 24





Branding Time 


Authors are advised—no, they’re commanded to brand themselves. A brand basically being something that tells potential readers who we are and what we write. Okay, I understand that. My FB Author Page is a brand of sorts. I write vintage romance, romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries. So far so good. But I’m more than that, so what?


The above graphic tells more about me than words, maybe more than you want to know, but it’s who I am.


A blogger once suggested sitting down and making a list to come up with an idea for a brand. It’s not a bad idea, but I didn’t need to remind myself that I am


  1. A Christian blessed by her womanhood

  2. A mother and grandmother

  3. Fascinated with who did what and when and where and why—not to mention how

  4. Love of history, especially the WW II and Great Depression eras

  5. A person who wants to close a book feeling good—not like she needs to go take a hot shower and scrub herself clean


   So there you have it.


   I don’t style myself a writer of “Christian” books, although there’s nothing in the world wrong with those. I grew up on Grace Livingston Hill. But life isn’t always happily-ever-after, and heroes and heroines aren’t necessarily squeaky clean with polished halos.


Everybody knows life is tough. Everybody knows life takes dark turns occasionally. Everybody wants to believe those dark turns can lead to a field of light. That’s what I write: real people in real life situations making real decisions (sometimes the wrong ones), and determined to do more than just survive.


I’m not preaching to the choir. Rather, I hope people who’d reject a “Christian romance” would pick up my book and find some Christian values and inspiration to which they can aspire. I’ve met plenty of “Christians” who cause me to raise a doubtful eyebrow—not about what they want to be but how they are.


Perhaps my bottom line is this: Despite my bumbling and fumbling, I managed to raise two sons on my own after their father died. Now I have grandchildren. Never in a million years do I ever want one of them someday to pick up something I’ve written—gasp—and say, “Oh, Mimi!” No amount of sales is worth that.


"If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Matthew 18:6 (NIV)


~~Posted February 22




Wake-up Call!


Mystery author Heather Weidner is an author/blogger to whom I often link on my own author page because she always has something valuable to share. I recently linked to a blog from October 2019 titled “10 Things About the Writing Life”. Number six in her list resonated with me and inspired this blog.

She says, rightly so, that writing is a business and should be treated as such, and that writers should act professional. I couldn’t agree more! But here is where I fall short.

Shortly after retirement, when I decided to see if I could write anything worth publishing, I spend a great deal of time learning about various facets of the writing “career”. I was fortunate to have The Wild Rose Press pick up my first book, its sequel, and later three more. (My WIP is headed there for consideration as soon as it’s finished.) I also learned about self-publishing and did some of that, too, with varying degrees of success. (The Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series brought in a nice piece of change!)

I did my homework on marketing, too, but that onerous chore eventually drifted to the sidelines as I wrote more and more for pleasure rather than publication. Of course, that was a mistake, and the royalty reports for tax season confronted me with my sloth.

Hours spent on a detailed marketing plan (which needs to be revised) have flown. Small sums of money on paid marketing didn’t really seem worth the expense. I exited several social media venues because they simply took up too much time. I found writing groups to be forums for personal promotion and ego-polishing. At author promotion events, I couldn’t be bothered to sit behind my carefully-arranged table because I’d rather be up and around meeting other people.

In short, “I’d rather be writing” became my mantra—and the second verse was, “I’d rather be writing when I want to”. Writing is something I do because I love it. If readers love it, great. If they don’t, no problem for me.

After four books with the same editor at The Wild Rose Press, we developed a nice relationship. When I emailed her to say I was working on another book and considering submitting it to TWRP, she replied with anticipation and attached something new with their submissions process: the necessity of also submitting a marketing information sheet. This form is absolutely necessary if a manuscript is accepted “before a contract can be discussed”.

Do I agree with the strategy? Absolutely. I’ve been part of TWRP for a long time and watched it grow from a fledgling group into a solid publisher which makes good business decisions and treats its authors with courtesy and respect.

  But now the ball comes to rest in my court. What am I willing to do to promote this new book should they accept it for publication?

  I’m thinking about that.

  The marketing plan I toiled over and then put on the shelf rebukes me each time my eyes fall on the nice leatherette notebook in which it reposes.

  I need an attitude adjustment if my little tales are going to see the world beyond “My Documents” folder on the computer.

  But first I have to bring Diamond Springs to a satisfactory close. Before I can do that, I have to kill off at least one more character and expose all the dirty secrets which have festered for two hundred years.

  Now, that’s fun!

  ~~Posted February 20





Procrastination Starts with P

And that rhymes with T

And that stands for Trouble!


I get up every morning with the firm intention to edge my current novel toward the finish line. Firm intentions do not translate to real action. The little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering to me.

There’s laundry in the hamper.

You’re a day late blogging.

Those bills you pay online need to be scheduled.

Your email boxes need clearing out.

Go load up the recycling and take it.

Don’t forget to mail that package.

Check the pantry to see what you need at the grocery store while you’re out.

You said you were going to order_________.

You have to call _______ about ________.


This morning I resolve not to listen to that annoying little voice. Everything can wait. The novel’s waited long enough.

The computer boots up slowly. I ignore the icons for Facebook, Gmail, and Yahoo mail, and go directly to My Documents. And there it is, waiting patiently for me: the WIP, last saved ten days ago. Surely it hasn’t been that long—has it?

My characters are ignoring me. What’s good for the goose, I hear them say. And I reply, Please, I’ll do better. Really, I will. I know the action has stagnated. Oh, all right, it’s come to a complete stop, but I can get it going again. I can.

I’ve killed off two people. Is it time for a third, or shall I wait a while? What new clue needs to be dropped in this chapter? Wait—I need to re-read my notes and see who knows what to this point.

And while I’m at it, that one character—the older brother, a real heel underneath his fine clothes and fancy framed law school diploma—isn’t really behaving true to form. He’s ranting, and he’s too cool for that. His threats need to be more subtle. That means rewriting a whole scene, at least two pages worth of dialogue. Drat.

Maybe a cold Coke will help. I get my caffeine from a bottle, not a cup. As soon as I open the refrigerator, I’m reminded that I need to purge the freezer side. But it can wait. I’ll just peek in and see what’s there…

No! Do. Not. Open. The. Freezer.

I scurry back to my desk and the waiting computer with the open document. Where was I? Oh, right, I have to rewrite that scene with the evil older brother who doesn’t rant but rather threatens subtly. Would he really commit his niece to a mental hospital? Could he? He’s a lawyer, and he has the ear of some judges and other influential figures. Maybe. But there’s her father to contend with. She’s the apple of his eye, and…

I’ll get back to Mr. Evil Attorney Brother. This last scene is pretty good. Someone just dropped some enticing information, even if it was mostly in the form of veiled hints. Maybe this is the point where the ghost-hunting professor should show up again. I’ve got that scene written in another draft. All I need to do is copy, paste, and tweak it a bit.

While I search the other draft document, I remember the shelves in the back of the car which need to be put together. Need to do that while it’s still cool. I can write when it’s hot this afternoon and…no, this is Wednesday, and I play cards at the church and then go to exercise group. Better keep writing this morning.

How did I write so much when I was still working full time? Now that I’m retired, it’s like wading in molasses in January to fill up a page. Was I more motivated? Did I manage my time more efficiently? I was younger, that’s for sure, but you won’t catch me using age as an excuse for this foot-dragging!

Anyway, I better get the shelves out of the car. I’ll leave the document open and get back to it…ten minutes max…


~~Posted February 18







Polished White Mansions 

of Stone..

     People often ask where the ideas for my stories come from. I can give them a list:

  • old family stories

  • genealogical research

  • newspaper/magazine articles

  • travel experiences

  • random photographs

  • overheard snippets of conversation

  • old death certificates available on Ancestry.com

  • song titles/lyrics

  • memories

  • documentaries

  • cemeteries

     So which one is the best? The last—cemeteries--hands down.


     One of my grandfather’s favorite songs was “When You and I Were Young, Maggie” in which an old man has wandered out into the country—perhaps to a cemetery—to remember Maggie. In the last verse of the song he speaks to her of how


the young and the gay and the best…

in polished white mansions of stone…

have each found a place of rest…


     Wander among these polished white mansions and think of them as dwelling places, because no one is ever gone until they’re forgotten. Consider if the information is skillfully carved or crudely scratched. Was the person poor (field stone), comfortable (marker), or wealthy/prominent (monument)? Were their lives tragically short, average, or very long? Are the markers among others with similar names or alone? Do you see fresh flowers, faded flowers, long-dead flowers, or nothing at all?

     Is only the basic information there, or is there an epitaph—beloved wife, our baby, gone too soon, together forever, never forgotten--the list goes on and on. Is there a symbol—professional (medical/dental) or organizational (Masonic, Woodmen of the World)? Is the marker a standard veteran’s marker—and does the grave hold both the veteran and his wife (always check the back for an additional name). What can you tell about the person’s religious beliefs—Christian cross, Star of David, or something else?

     Think about the history of the area or town. Are those who settled this particular place interred here? Does the cemetery itself have an historical marker designating it as significant? Is it a church cemetery? A family cemetery?

     Wander into the area for those souls whose families couldn’t afford either a plot or a marker—often referred to as Potter’s Field, county burials, or paupers’ graves. Listen to the cries of these barren plots! Touch the simple carving designating “Unknown” and listen more closely.

     The souls here live on in their polished white mansions of stone—or in unmarked spaces—but they are silenced. It’s up to the writer to speak for them and to tell their stories.

     Weave the stories as fiction or nonfiction, and in the latter pay scrupulous attention to details in the facts you research. You can take some literary license in the former, but do it with dignity.

     I’ve always loved the old western epitaph:


Be careful, friend, as you pass by--

As you are now, so once was I.

As I am now, so you will be,

Therefore prepare to follow me.


     Tell their stories the way you’d want yours told some day hence.


     Their stories need to be told.


Posted February 17






Time to Write

     Time to Write?

     That could mean, “It’s time to write.”

     OR, it could mean, “I don’t have time to write!”

     Lately, in my case, it means the latter! By the time I get everything taken care of, it’s after eight PM., and my brain is too fuzzy to concentrate on the intricate details of the suspense tale I’m trying to weave.

     So where does my time go?

     It’s not that I don’t get anything done—I generally check off most of what I haw scheduled for the day. It’s just that, for some reason, other things get prioritized over writing. Real life over fiction.

     It’s been a couple of years since I started trying to put together The Legacy of Diamond Springs. The general idea hasn’t changed, and I did my research into the time period—the Civil Rights unrest in the early to mid-60s—which influences the story in the present-day setting. Characters have evolved. Critical events and relationships have been honed to reflect realism. I finally have the “tone” for the story.

     And now what happens? After all that, interruptions in my day are whittling away at the time I want to be writing!

     While I was writing this blog (which is at least a day late!), the phone rang. The company with whom I have my annual termite control contract is running ahead and wanted to schedule my yearly inspection—not technically due until March 19—this week. Um, no—next week, please. I’m looking at two days, Thursday and Friday, when I do not have to do anything extra except write, and I’m holding that time sacred.

     Sometimes I think back to when I was teaching and how much writing I actually accomplished in the evenings and on weekends. How did that happen? Why isn’t it happening now?

     I’m not a joiner. I don’t play golf or cards (regularly) or volunteer (shame on me). I am decidedly anti-social (relatively speaking,, you understand). So where does my writing time go?

     Could it be I’m just not as motivated as I was before coming published? Maybe so. I attained my goal—my name on the cover of a book and then more books. So is it now that I’ve accomplished what I set out to do, I’m no longer on a mission? Possibly.

     Or maybe it’s just that, as the years pile up, I’d rather live life at a slower pace and enjoy each day without anything hanging over my head—including writing. That comes closest to the explanation.

     BUT—I have set myself a goal of 1500-2000 words per day, which I usually don’t make. The word count tool shows an average of around 1100+ when my eyelids begin to droop. I don’t argue with myself about shutting down for the evening.

     That said, the WIP (work in progress) will see the light of day.

     I just can’t tell you when.

  Posted February 13





Another snippet from my writing journal...

     Today I’m sharing another snippet from my journal, the “free writing” for January 29. I took “an empty 

classroom” from the settings list in Master Lists for Writers.

 

     She emptied the final drawer, tossing the items onto the pile of jumbled contents already in the last cardboard 

box she’d brought from the grocery store. As she closed and taped the lid, it came to her she’d probably never

open the empty the box. Someone might do it someday, but it wouldn’t be her.

     In the hall, workmen moving desks and bookcases shouted at each other to move this way or that, to be careful,to    

watch out. She shook her head. What did it matter if a door or a wall were gouged or the wood floor scraped? In

two weeks the old building was scheduled for demolition anyway. 

 

     The silence of the empty classroom settled on her shoulders like a weight. How many generations of sixth-graders 

had sat in those desks—stared out those tall windows—warmed their chapped hands on the clanking metal

radiators?

 

     Now the last eager feet had exited for the last time, and it was her turn to go. A school board member half her age 

had said it plainly, “Out with the old, in with the new.”

 

     I participate in StoryADay challenges in May and September, and now the administrator of the site, Julia Duffy, has 

posted a three-day challenge with the theme Aspects of Enduring Love. We are asked to write three linked 

mini-stories to illustrate moments of intimacy, passion, and commitment. Sounds fun.


     After I get in my 1500 words for the day on the WIP (Legacy of Diamond Springs) I may tackle it!


~~Posted on February 8




I will find out...
and that's a promise!

I’ve been keeping my newest research project under wraps for a while. “Walking John”, a poor old man who lived in caves around my home town, was finally discovered drowned in July 1937. I stumbled on his death certificate by accident, and the hunt was on. So far I’ve discovered:

  1. Where he’s buried (and not in Potter’s Field!)

  2. His burial records

  3. Tons of info on the minister who officiated

  4. Pretty much what didn’t jive with his story

  5. The absence of police records

  6. The truth of where he said he came from—and did

  7. The absence of any record of him at the University of Texas in its early days

  8. Tons of nice people who have gone out of their way to answer my questions

  9. That not everyone is interested and/or helpful

  10. A growing determination to find out THE TRUTH about poor old Walking John

After deciding to forego the trip to my hometown in February—June or September are better times for me—I also decided I could spend some of the trip money on some paid research. So, I contacted the local historical society, and this morning opened an email to find someone had taken the bait! Not only that, but she’d located a second newspaper article which backed up the fact he said he’d come from another county bordering mine!

So—the hunt is on again, and I’ve got a few things I’m considering doing by mail and email and social media.

I am like a bulldog with a bone.

I want to know.

And I’ve been to the cemetery and told him I’d. find. out.


~~Posted February 6




Letter to 
my (much) younger self


Dear Judy,

There are a few things you really need to know. I mean, really need to know. Not about the birds and the bees. You got Facts of Life 101 at the appropriate time. The problem is, nobody gave you the facts of living.

So here we go. Pay attention. Take some notes if you need to. Take in the information by osmosis if that’s the only way you can do it. But do it!

1. You are a person, separate from your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Respect the first four on the list and blow off the last if they try to steamroll you because they’re older. Just because they’re older, they have no right to use or abuse you in any way.

2. There are other things you owe the older members of your family besides respect. I know you’ll take care of your parents’ needs when the time comes. You were taught to do the right thing. But your turf is your turf. If you can’t even get your car in your own garage because various people are using it for cheap storage, there’s a problem.

3. Your dreams and ambitions are also worthy of respect. Being laughed at and put down is not cool, and you don’t have to allow it.

4. You know you aren’t going to go out and do anything against the law, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break a few rules once in a while. It’s good for the soul. It makes you human. Frankly, it makes you a nicer person all around.

5. There is nothing wrong with you because you are an only child. You will find, as you go through life, that quite often only children are far more giving because they were never made to do it. They did it because they wanted to. Stop hanging your head because of your birth circumstances.

6. No matter what anyone tells you—and I mean anyone—God is a real part of your life seven days a week, not just within the church walls on Sunday. Don’t let anyone tell you, “Oh, it’s okay to believe all that, and you should, but in the real world it’s up to you.” It’s not.

7. Stop letting people tell you, “You can’t.” You can. And if you make a few mistakes, that’s what it is: a mistake, not a mortal sin. Learn from them and move on.

8. Widen your horizons. Life isn’t lived inside textbooks, and good grades don’t make you smart. Common sense weighs in here. Get a grip.

9. Just because you were parented in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to parent your children the same if it doesn’t seem the right thing.

10. Pull up your big girl panties and live your own life—which doesn’t mean trying to please everyone and feeling guilty when you don’t.


Oh, if only someone had backed me into a corner and read me this list many, many, many years ago!


~~Posted February 3





Only Make-believe

As adolescents, we liked the fun songs, but we liked romance, too. Oh, did we like it! Who can forget the incomparable Johnny Mathis and “Chances Are” and “The Twelfth of Never”? He was a star athlete and planned to become an English teacher—but we’re all glad his “velvet voice” (so named by critics) brought him into our homes and hearts.

Elvis Presley implored us to “Love Me Tender”, and Dion and the Belmonts lamented what it was like to be “A Teenager in Love”. Frank Sinatra was still around (I was never a fan) and assured us, “Love Is Here to Stay”.

We dated, we danced, we dreamed to music. But what did we know, at that age, about love? Not much.

Chances are (excuse me, Mr. Mathis) when we listen to those same songs half a century or more later, we just wish we’d known then what we know now. Or maybe not.

Dried corsages pinned to my bulletin board eventually found their way to the trash. Later, I was heartbroken to be told my beautiful formals had rotted away in my grandmother’s basement. Ticket stubs, spirit ribbons, printed programs, snapshots all went the way of the world—here today and gone tomorrow.

Only the memories remain, and those are tempered with the wisdom of years.

Conway Twitty warned us, “It’s Only Make Believe”. But it was fun while it lasted.

~~Posted February 2


Bring back 
the good times!


In 1958, Sheb Wooley came out with “Purple People Eater”--which caught the imagination of the younger generation and set them singing. Foolish though they were, the lyrics set to a catchy tune became enormously popular.

I still like it. In fact, I looked it up on YouTube when the Small Person was less than a year old, and she would sit in my lap at the computer and bounce to the music. (She also liked Alvin and Chipmunks’ rendition of “Witch Doctor”.)

It was one of those escapist songs. It transported listeners into a a make-believe world where there was nothing to be afraid of except a “one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater”, and we all knew he/she/it was harmless. Even as young teens, we still remembered how to play, and this song gave us a good excuse to regress a few years.

I suppose it’s the same with those “other-world” novels which find their niche with a large readership these days. And the Good Lord knows we need to get away from all the hatred and violence being perpetrated in our country these days.

Advertisements tout “get-aways”--cruises, secluded cabins, resorts, five-star restaurants, bus tours—and extol their soothing qualities. We won’t fast-forward ahead to when the credit card bill comes. That’s like shutting off the music.

“Purple People Eater” reminds me of a kinder, gentler time when I didn’t have to be suspicious of any and everything I heard on television and radio. Of course, it was “fake”. We all knew that. We loved it for its total false premise which didn’t hurt us or anyone else.

The one-horned, one-eyed guy or gal promised not to eat us—the witch doctor promised a never-fail love potion—and we bought it hook, line, and sinker because it was—fun. I, for one, vote to bring back the good times.

~~Posted January 30




Memories Are Made of This...
and This...
and This...

Sometime back I found a great post at Writers Write about using song titles as writing prompts. I printed out the article, but alas—most of the songs aren’t from “back when”--and those are the ones I identify. Still, for you younger pups out there, follow the link for some great suggestions.

Meanwhile, I did an internet search for top songs of the 1950s and came up with this list. So, for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to use song titles as inspiration for my blogs. (BTW, song lyrics—not titles—are copyrighted unless in the public domain.

Growing up with music—my parents had a Magnavox radio-record player in a blonde cabinet—I soon collected my own records to add to their thirties and forties tunes. (I think I loved theirs best and still have many of those records wrapped in paper and stored.) The 78 rpm records came first, and they broke easily. Next came 45s when I reached junior high, and then the long-playing 33 1/3 rpms.

Sitting around that wonderful box, we listened to Eddy Arnold, Guy Lombardo, and many others. Daddy was always singing—not that he knew all the words! My earliest memories are of being put into his “little red jeep” and riding around singing, “Tiddldy winky, winky, Tiddldy-de winky woo, I love you...” and “You get a cane, and I’ll get a pole, honey...” (The trip to the crawdad hole was a musical adventure!)

When television came along, Eddy and Guy came with it as well as Sing Along with Mitch and endless musical variety shows. It wasn’t Christmas until Bing Crosby had crooned “White Christmas”.

Big screen musicals were all the thing in the fifties. I was a devoted Ethel Merman fan (Ethel who? you ask) and aspired to be the next big booming Broadway success. My one claim to fame was “Who Put the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder?” performed at a junior high choir program.

Singing, dancing, fabulous costumes, sets which almost reached out and pulled you into the screen...all the while serenading you with songs which you’d remember always...those were the days!

I preferred Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald over Elvis, but of course, I never admitted it. We ate lunch at a little hamburger place across from the junior high to the blare of a jukebox and danced to those same songs on weekends. The small bedside radio gifted me by my grandparents had once been tuned on Saturday mornings to “Big Jon and Sparkie”, but now it played the top hits (softly) as I did my homework.

If you’re a fan of the older television series “Happy Days”, you’re reading every word with complete understanding. If not—my condolences. For those were happy days when we had music in our souls, and the threat of nuclear war and other pending disasters of the day could be temporarily dispelled in song. 

~~Posted January 28

Make a free website with Yola