Vintage Romance-Romantic Suspense-Cozy Mystery

Continuing the NaNoWriMo 

preparation journey...

 To recap: this year’s NaNoWriMo project is a from-scratch rewrite of a novel for which I asked for and received back my rights from the publisher—and which has been languishing on my computer ever since.

The idea for the novel came from a visit to Ft. Smith Arkansas where the Visitor Center is housed in the one remaining brothel of that old wild west town. “Hanging Judge” Parker also put Ft. Smith on the map.

Miss Laura’s” makes a good tour, and it’s not presented in a way to make the oldest profession look enticing. When I stood in front of a wall with pictures of some of the “ladies” who worked there, I felt an overwhelming sorrow for them—for a society which held womanhood in such low esteem—and for all the girls today who aren’t taught that their bodies are temples of God and thus sacred.

So, that story—and the one I’m planning now—isn’t going to be of the hot, spicy variety which seems to enthrall too many readers these days. Relying heavily on well-researched facts, I’ve crafted my characters as real people in real situations (where have you heard that before?) hoping that the reader will feel compassion and, for some of them, righteous anger and indignation.

One of the sources I’ve used is a documentary I stumbled onto on YouTube I’m putting the link to it here with the warning strong language. I felt the general attitude seemed to make light of the situation, but perhaps my opinion is inaccurate. I hope so.

For those of you with an interest in western history, here is a chapter not to be ignored on Wild West: Brothels. It’s a tragic, ugly chapter to be sure, but we can’t sanitize history—only look at it honestly and do what we can to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself.  

Preview of 

Miracle on Mary Street

NaNoWriMo 2019

     This is a rough premise for my NaNoWriMo 2019. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s a from-scratch rewrite of a book for which I requested and received my rights back a couple of years ago. I have to admit I’m not as enthusiastic about this story as I was about the first one, but I see the flaws in the first.

Sometime this week I’ll have a Pinterest Board up for Miracle on Mary Street, so check my FB author page for details.

Meanwhile...I’m open to all comments suggestions, etc. about the pending novel! Email me:

A young college student who has become interested in genealogy traces her great-grandmother to a “boarding house” in another town several years before she married and started a family. She writes to the Chamber of Commerce to ask if the house is still standing. Receiving a strange reply— “It should’ve been burned down years ago!” she decides to visit town on her spring break.

She finds the house at the end of an empty block, kept up but obviously empty and locked tight. When she pursues more information about it, she meets a brick wall. Finally an older librarian tells her bluntly that it was a notorious brothel.

Shocked, she leaves and goes home to mull things over. Unwilling to give up—and convinced her family doesn’t know anything about their family member’s career, she locates a local historian who tells her the house is still owned by the family of the “madam” and hasn’t been touched since it was closed down in 1945. Taxes get paid regularly and maintenance is done, but despite repeated offers from real estate agents, the house remains unsold.

He refuses to put her in touch with the owner but suggests searching public property records, in which she finds a name and eventually traces a great-nephew. He’s a lawyer with a bright future and doesn’t want to talk to her. Finally he gives her the information that his uncle (the madame’s son) refuses to sell it despite handsome offers but won’t say why.

She keeps researching and also in touch with the nephew. Finally, he confesses he used to sneak inside the house when he was growing up and offers to do the same for her if she decides to come back. She agrees.

Inside, she finds her great-grandmother’s room labeled with her name above the door and containing with all kinds of memorabilia—but no answers as to why she worked there. She is determined to know why the woman spoken of as a virtual paragon worked in a brothel and how she kept it secret from her family in the years to come.

Her growing obsession takes her into a dark past, one to which the town is held hostage, and brings her to the brink of personal disaster.

Unveiling NaNoWriMo 2019


     Having made the decision to participate in NaNoWriMo, the question arises: “What shall I write?”

     Fortunately, I have folders and folders full of short stories which might possibly turn into 50K novels at the rate of 1,667 words per day. Sigh. That’s enough to made me rue the decision.

     But lurking in My Documents is also a full-length manuscript submitted to a publisher 7-8 years ago. Published, it even won an in-house best novel editors’ nomination, but it sold next to no copies! As soon as my contract expired, I asked for and received the rights back. I felt the premise of the story was a good one—but obviously the story as written didn’t hook readers.

     Originally titled The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall (don’t look for it—it’s nowhere to be found now!), the story sprang from a visit I made to Ft. Smith AR. The town’s visitor center is the only remaining brothel on a street lined at one time with same. That’s the nicest way I can put it. Researching alternative names for such places, I came up with bordello, whorehouse, red light district, cat house, sporting house, and house of ill repute. I’m sure there are more which I don’t even want to know.

     Before you jump to conclusion that I’m glorifying the oldest profession, read on. The house has been restored—tastefully in my opinion—and no one who guides you through it tries to sugarcoat what went on there. What caught my attention—and is forever seared in my mind—is the display of photographs purported to be some of the women who plied their trade within the walls.

     In short—their faces broke my heart. Everyone makes choices—but some are forced into choices they’d rather not make. I’ve always been thankful for my God-given gift of womanhood in its truest meaning. Standing there searching the faces on the wall, I felt a profound sadness that they used their gifts—for whatever reason—in the way they did.

     I set out to write the story of a young woman’s genealogical journey after identifying one of those faces as that of her two-greats grandmother. She’s full of questions—why being the unknown which refuses to give rest to her search even after she’s uncovered basic facts.

     One of the few reviews received about Miss Fanny mentioned the naivete of the story’s protagonist, still a college student when the story begins. In retrospect, the critique has worth. So I won’t be rewriting the same book and resurrecting the characters. Rather, I’ll be developing a whole new premise but with the same theme: compassion for those who were caught in a web of their own making, even those who thought that web would lead to fulfillment of sorts.

     Stay tuned during October for updates about Miracle on Mary Street.

A few thoughts on writing contests...

Various groups, organizations, and writing magazines regularly offer contests. Many of them have no entry fee, which is good, because I’m not paying money to maybe win the lottery! Others offer publication, critiques, and other perks. But I don’t enter.

So why is that? Well it’s always a good idea to look at samples of previous winners’ writing, and lately it’s always the same: edgy and/or pushing one of the current political/social agendas out there. (I won’t name them—you know what they are.)

I don’t write stuff like that—my story won’t even get a second look—so why bother?


I did enter a contest and win a nice bit of cash plus publication, but that was years ago. I just happened to connect with the right publisher at the right time. When I hit “send”, I didn’t expect to win, but I figured just entering was good experience. When I received the email announcing I’d won, I shrieked for ten minutes!

Another time I entered a contest which was won by a younger person I just happened to know. I was delighted for her. Her story didn’t really reach out and grab me (the generation gap I guess), but I was happy for her to be encouraged to keep on writing. What bothered me was the editor-in-charge’s blanket statements about how many entrants did the same thing with the prompt. I doubt they did the same thing, but the prompt pointed to that kind of surprise conclusion, and I found it tacky for her to go on the attack against those who had spent the time and effort to write and enter.

Writing conferences have annual contests, and it’s been my experience that the same people take home the gold year after year. Maybe someone else gets an honorable mention or a third runner up, but the big prizes go to those who have claimed them repeatedly. What incentive is there for anyone to submit when they know the outcome is already decided? My opinion is that a person who wins big should have to back off for a year before entering again. Young writers (which I’m not) too often give up in the face of what they see as repeated failure.

I’ve been shot down more than once for this opinion, but it’s not like I had any marbles in the game. I only entered a writing conference contest once in the spirit of participation, and I knew I wouldn’t win anything. It didn’t matter. At my age, I’m not working on being a New York Times best seller. (Actually, I wouldn’t want to be associated with that particular periodical just on principle.}

Writing is something I do for the sheer love of it. I’ve had some financial success and loved every minute (dollar) of it. I’ve seen others of my books fade away. That’s okay. It happens. I’ve had great critiques from other writers really interested in someone besides themselves. I’ve sat through meetings which boiled down to I’m so great or a barrage of nit-picking advice which made no sense. (The person giving it thought he/she was pretty brilliant, however.)

Writing is, for the most part, a solitary profession/hobby. The point is, we’re all in it together, and we need to be encouraging or keep our mouths shut.

Meanwhile, the contests continue, and if I ever see another likely one, I just might enter. But I don’t have a horn to toot or an agenda to push, so who knows?

Yet another writing challenge!
Is this an excuse not to work on 
The Legacy of Diamond Springs?

 This is Day 3 of September Story-a-Day. It’s not too late to join if you’re interested. As Julie, the admin says, don’t try to catch up. Just go from where you are. She’ll post the prompt for Day 4 tomorrow.

I like these story sprints in May and September. There’s no pressure really, and I always end up with a nice folder of stories for possible submission (if I ever get motivated) or to post on my website.

Sunday’s prompt was for a story relating to Labor Day. I wrote about Katie, a nurse, whose city employee husband goes off to the annual picnic while she has to work. A change of assignment took her out of obstetrics to the ER, which would get more business on a holiday anyway. And it did. When she gets home, her husband is waiting up for her and asks about her shift. It made the news, which he didn’t watch. She stares at him for a long moment before she says, “Wasn’t no picnic,” and heads to the shower. And, of course, that’s the name of the story: Wasn’t No Picnic.

Today’s prompt was vague at first reading, but it became clearer as I began to write. The characters must get themselves into a hole and then dig themselves out of it. Climbing Out is the story of brothers Barry and Billy who venture past the boundaries set for them by their grandmother whose farm they are visiting. What they find is a neglected cemetery probably dating from the family’s arrival in West Texas soon after the Civil War. Then Billy, the youngest, falls into an open grave. So my character hole was a literal one! Forty years later, Barry goes back before turning the property over to its new owners. His poignant memories of Billy, who survived the open grave only to meet his death in Viet Nam, conclude the story.

Now—if I could just be as industrious with The Legacy of Diamond Springs! More on that later in the week…

What's on my computer? 
(And it's not the cats!)

      It’s not the Bun and the Twinks, although they do  like to prowl around my desk. No, I’m talking about finished but unpublished manuscripts and—worst of all!—unfinished manuscripts.

      I’ve already flayed myself five times over, so now it’s your turn. What to do, what to do? (<wrings hands>) What should I knuckle down on? Covers and formatting for the completed? Backside –in-chair-hands-on-keyboard for those stories crying out for completion?

      Here’s the shameful list (at least all I’ll admit to!):

·         Keeping Promises: When ten-year-old Alena Parker’s three younger siblings are taken away by child welfare and parceled out for adoption, she vows to find and reunite their family. Walking away from the last of countless foster homes and begging her way into nursing school, she makes a new life for herself. But her quest for her sisters and brother overshadows everything, even a chance at love and a home of her own. Dr. Paul Bradford, just returned from World War II, tries to understand and offer a helping hand, but Alena doesn’t trust him any more than the father she thinks gave them away and the director of the orphanage who threatens her with the police for asking questions. She faces a choice that will affect the rest of her life. Will it be the right one?

·         The Face on Miss Fanny’s Wall: Originally published with a traditional publisher, the rights have returned to me on request, and I want to do a complete rewrite. How did Francine Franklin, daughter of a prosperous Southern planter, wind up as the madam of the most infamous bordello in Plains City? And how did her unknown granddaughter find her way to its doorstep? That’s what Tessa Steele wants to know when she recognizes a picture on the wall of the bordello-turned-museum over a hundred years later. Her great-great-grandmother a ‘lady of the evening’? Unbelievable! Tessa’s always been the girl who never stepped out of line, but now—despite warnings from her family and even the state police—she’s determined to find answers to her questions no matter the cost. And it could cost her life.

·         Blest Be the Tie:  Tank, Francie, Vic, Peggy, Bix, and Marion—all members of the Class of ’35 at Danford  High School. They were children of the Depression, born during ‘the war to end all wars’, thrown unwillingly into two more and heartsick witnesses to a fourth. They’d held on tight to each other through good times and bad, known desperation and despair, seen dreams and children die. Vic always said that a body did what he had to do to survive, so they’d stuck together and survived.

How long have I been working on this West Texas saga? Only forty years (or more). I think I’ve become so attached to my characters that I can’t turn them loose. But it’s a story I think needs telling—fiction but based on many real people and events. It’s either finish or delete everything, because I don’t want to leave it behind!

So weigh in with an email or on my author page. What do I do with which one and when?



What I write 
in five words

          I had this topic on my blog calendar, but this afternoon while sitting at the chiropractor’s office, someone asked what I wrote. The first word out       of my mouth was clean. Maybe that was a sign I should write this blog now.

·        Clean

I write about real people in real life situations, but you won’t find any obscenities or gratuitous profanity. Some of my characters, being who they are, speak roughly in certain situations but not constantly. I also don’t interrupt the action for a hot sex scene because I think I’ll lose my readers’ interest if I don’t put it in. I’m from the era where the music swells, the door closes, and one is left to one’s own happy imaginings.

·        Adult

I don’t write for “young adults” but rather “mature adults”. Often my characters are older people who’ve been around the block. I include characters with handicaps (which isn’t the politically correct word today, but it gets the point across), and those who have “messed up” and gotten up and gone on.

·        Introspective

While I want to entertain readers, I want to put include some food for thought, too. People aren’t so different. We all experience happiness and sadness, struggle to find meaning and to forgive, want to dream of something more. My characters are real people with flaws like the rest of us.

·         Nostalgic

Even in a modern setting, I like to hark back to earlier days. My favorite time periods are those dark days of the Great Depression and World War II, maybe because both influenced my life.

·         Southern

With the exception of my first two books, the others are set in the south because that’s what I know. I’ve even written one set in my hometown (Dancing with Velvet) and think of it as a sort of love song to the place I grew up and which shaped me as a person. Since retiring to Arkansas, I’ve found great settings and ideas right here.

          I’m not “politically correct”, nor am I agenda-driven. What you read in the first chapter is what you’re going to get in the rest of the book. That          said, I hope you’ll give one of my books a try.


SPOILER: Look for a link to another free read before August is over!

What scares me most--then and now

        At this stage of the game, not much scares me at all. So let’s start with what used to terrify me:

·            the dark

·            fire—specifically, the house burning down while I was asleep

·            something happening to me when I was alone with my children

·            driving

·            being alone

So that’s the big five.

I could explain each one in depth, but that’s beside the point. Yes, there were reasons. Yes, they seemed valid at the time. No, I’m not afraid anymore. Why? Fear cripples and imprisons, and I wanted to walk with my face to the sun and be free. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight, but I conquered them all. Of course, I didn’t  do it alone.

So what am I afraid of?

·            Leaving unfinished business:  writing, genealogy, personal business

·            Not leaving the legacy I want to my grandchildren—the example of faith, trust, womanly strength in the Lord

·            Being dependent

Those are the big three.

Again, I could go into depth on each, but they’re pretty much self-explanatory. The first two I can do something about. The third—that’s not up to me except through taking care of my health and financial planning  as best I can.

Fear is my “dirty” word. Does that make me throw common sense to the wind? Absolutely not. Does it make me take that first step when I’m tempted not to move? Absolutely yes.

“Be Not Afraid” is a song we sing some Sundays in church. Here’s the YouTube linkIt’s a worthwhile listen.

Old dogs, new tricks, and thirsty horses...
What I would like to learn to do!


     When computers first found their way into the public schools, the teachers in the school where I worked were offered several free tutorial sessions taught by a colleague who truly knew his stuff.

     I didn’t attend.


     Pure and simple, I don’t pick up on technological information easily, and even at the age I was then (almost 50) I feared being laughed at for asking questions

     Rewind to junior high school when I sat in the back of every math classroom and hoped the teacher would forget I was there. Confused? Horribly. Ask questions? Not on your great-granny’s tin type! I shed many tears of frustration as I slogged through math, relieved when I finally earned the two required graduation credits and could flee from all things numerical.

     So, most of what I’ve learned about the computer—and I consider myself above moderately skillful—has been self-taught through following printed instructions and hours of trial and error. Over the years a few people earned my trust enough for me to feel comfortable asking specific questions.

     But I digress from the topic at hand: What would I like to learn how to do?

     Yesterday I taught myself how to upload a file as a free download from my website. It was an exciting moment when I checked out the link and discovered it worked. Picture me grinning from ear to ear. But there’s more I’d like to learn:

1.       How to do more with a picture editing program than resize or crop

2.       How to plumb the depths of the inner workings of my computer—in other words, what makes it tick?

3.       How to create a podcast—something more than just an online video to be posted to Facebook

4.       How to solve some of the little quirky accidents that happen within a word document such as a 2-5 character scene divider which becomes one long line if one hits “enter” in the wrong place—and won’t come out!

5.       How to successfully do headers and footers the FIRST time

6.       How to successfully use Excel to create graphs and charts

     And there’s more, but that’s a good place to start. I’ve found work-arounds for various situations, but I know there are easier and better fixes. I can make book trailers, and I’ve learned to use sites like Canva to create all sorts of social media graphics.

     If you’re shaking your head and saying, “Oh, none of that is hard,” I recommend you walk in the moccasins of one who is spatially challenged like I am. Though I am by no means stupid, it takes both visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods to teach me. If you pick it up at the drop of a hat, good for you!

     The upside of all this is—when I taught school as a special ed teacher and also in the regular classroom—I could empathize with my students’ difficulties. They soon learned I meant it when I said, “If you don’t understand, ask me to tell/show you again. There are no dumb questions.” I’d been there-done that, you see.

     I learned to explain things six ways to Sunday, and it was wonderful to see the light go on and chase away the darkness of confusion.

     The old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is erroneous. I am an old dog, and I learn new tricks all the time. The true saying is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” If one doesn’t want to learn—which means trying and failing and trying again—he can’t be taught.

     I have an insatiable thirst for new knowledge and skills, even at my age. Life is indeed an adventure!

Interview with

Larry McClure
Police Chief of Diamond Springs MS

JN: You’re rather young to be a police chief, aren’t you?

LMC: Yeah, I guess so, but I’m qualified. Degree in criminal justice. Tons of training at the Police

Academy. And experience. That’s a lot more important.

JN: I guess a place like Diamond Springs doesn’t have much crime anyway.

LMC: You’d be surprised.

JN: I saw you having breakfast with that Yankee reporter…

LMC: Investigative journalist. There’s a difference.

JN: Everybody wants to know what he’s doing here…why he’s hanging around out at the college.

LMC: He’s on assignment. A story.

JN: There’s a story out there?

LMC: There’s history running out the doors. Where’ve you been?

JN: I’ve heard that Senator Clanton wants to close down Ainsleigh College and turn it into a resort.

LMC: That’ll never happen, not while Dr. Ainsleigh is around.

JN: I’ve heard he’s not…well.

LMC: Places like this like to gossip.

JN: And then there’s the unconventional relationship he has with one of the professors.

LMC: If you mean interracial, say it. Miscegenation laws are long gone in Mississippi.

JN: And some people say the daughter…his daughter, I believe…isn’t quite…right.

LMC: Some people say anything they want to. That doesn’t make it true.

JN: And what about Bennie Carpenter?

LMC: Happened forty years ago. Before I was born.

JN: I understand it was the only lynching in the history of the county.

LMC: It was one too many as far as I’m concerned. Chief Mackey was in charge then.

JN: The brother’s still around. Joe. Has that barbecue place.

LMC: That’s right. Made a small fortune with it, too.

JN: I’ve picked up all kinds of tidbits since I’ve been here, so you may be right about Diamond Springs not being as peaceful as it seems.

LMC: Not many places are.

JN: My next stop is The Springs. Professor Collins is meeting me there. He seems to think it’s haunted.

LMC: I’ve got more important things to do than worry about Collins’ spirits. Just stay out of trouble, huh? (walks off)

JN: Obviously I’m not going to get much out of him. But I’ve got others on my list. Miss Eleanor Pickett’s in charge of the historical society, and her family founded the town. I’ll bet she knows everything about everybody.

LMC: I heard that. You can talk to her, I guess, but you might find out a whole lot more than you want to know. (Gets into patrol car and drives away)


You can get in touch with me at:

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