Vintage Romance-Romantic Suspense-Cozy Mystery

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


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

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