Location: San Marcos, California, United States

Southern gal living in California. Have been writing since the age of ten and am addicted to the written word. Have stacks of books-to-be-read in almost every room. I teach writing on a volunteer basis and in a paid position. I once worked with foreign customers for an aerospace company; interesting job that gave me great insight into other cultures. Family scattered all over the US so have excuses to travel.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I've been doing a bit of first readings of manuscripts for my editor--first and second chapers, then last. Though I don't have clues to the middle part of these books, I am always interested in how these authors end their books.

People harbor expectations about them. They want all the threads tied into a nice perfect knot. No dangling pieces anywhere--unless they have a sequel to write. But the love story/crime/mystery or whatever genre of the book, must be completed in this manuscript. And, please, no "surprise" endings, crimes that are suddenly solved by a mysterious stranger, or magic circumstances.

An ending should take you back to the beginning; bringing the story full circle. That ending will gather all of the tails and tags together until readers are shown how and why and when the scenes and characters were building toward the conclusion. Knowing when and how to bring about this ending is often a dilemma for the writer. If writers understand that the ending, together with the beginning, rules the work, it makes the writing of both much simplier--if writing is ever a simple task. Once you understand the beginning and ending, the border of your story, then the author in you can get more prospective on the details in the middle.

A good ending carries the story and your readers smoothly to the destination where the writer intended them to go, allowing them to be satisfied when they close the book when completed. And, as in one of the books I read, if it is the beginning of a series, the author can do this seamlessly while still leaving the reader with a sense of anticipation for the sequel.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Since I am not only an author but also a teacher of creative writing, I am always looking for ideas to give my students as prompts to work from. Since I have been doing this for more years than I can believe, those ideas are becoming harder to come up with. Recently, I've taken a hint from many other writers and have begun to look in all the places we seem to overlook.

Eavesdrop:  I've always been pretty good at that--just ask my husband who doesn't hear low sounds as easily as I do and has learned to ask me, "What did they say?"  Just bits of conversation can offer all sorts of ideas to write about. The same goes for observing what happens in airports, restaurants, malls, even in your church on Sunday morning.

Read Obituaries: I have a habit of reading the obits for notices of elderly friends or students. But I find much more there. I find unique lives, patriotic heroes, wonderful names.

Use a Photograph:  Tell the story of what you see in that photograph--it can be one of your own memories, or a story you've created about what you see there. Or maybe you can find the same memories or stories from magazine pictures.

Stories Heard:  Do you remember the stories your relatives told you about their life, or your past relatives? Listen to the stories of strangers when they want to share them.

Setting:  Many of my stories started with a place I had seen, or read about, or dreamed of. It was from there that the characters appeared right in the middle of the setting--and I began.

Maps or Street Guides:  I have a writer friend who creates fantasy characters, kingdoms, and courageous characters. She makes up her own maps for these kingdoms. I've used street guides for creating my own make-believe towns--need street names? Want to set your story in a real place and don't want to make mistakes about the direction the streets run? Or pick out an unusual town name and write about what it would be like to live there.

Colors, Quotes, Poetry Lines:  I've had students write about a color--and they (and I) are amazed at what tales or poetry can come out of that simply thing. Using quotes or lines from poetry offers a beginning or accents a passage you want emphasized.

I keep notebook with special lines I've read--they make good beginnings or triggers for a story or article. I also have collected quotes by the hundreds in notebooks and journals--Aunt Lutie's Blue Moon Cafe has a quote for each chapter beginning from my large collection. And I enjoy reading and writing poetry which offer me ideas and beginnings.

Ideas are all around us. We just have to find the right places to look or listen for them.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Every work of fiction has a story question that summerizes the plot. In your stories someone is looking for clues, hunting for someone missing, looking for love, or finding a long-lost relative, for example.

The main character tries to reach a story goal with shorter goals found in scenes. Each scene should build on these questions--meeting each other, obstacles thrown in, love scenes--in a romance all of these scenes build on the question, "Will the guy get the girl or vice versa?" In a mystery, the scenes take on a different feel, but the goal is the same--and they each contain a question.

Scene questions can be answered in three ways. If you say YES all the time, you'll have a happy character but no conflict. Yes answers should only be in the last scenes.

If the answer is NO, the character has to try something else, a new direction, to reach his/her goal at the end of the story.

YES, BUT provides a twist. Maybe a character can get what she/he wants, but with strings attached. Yes, she can have the guy but has to give up her career. Or, yes, he has to leave his beloved ranch behind to take a job to save it. Or the cop attempts to push aside his growing attraction for a suspect because he can't get involved. They each have to choose between things that will make life difficult for a little while before things get better. Or maybe each one has to make a moral choice. Either way, they will face a great source of conflict.

Conflict makes the best scenes. And those scenes create the most rewarding story, one that will draw your readers in, keep them turning those pages and, hopefully, make your work a smash hit--one that will catch the eye of a traditional publisher.

Well, I can dream, can't I?

Saturday, June 09, 2012


I'm not ready to breath a sigh of relief over completing my book just yet. Although it's been accepted by a publisher and the editor and I have almost completed the rewrites/edits, I know this is only the beginning in many ways. Now comes promotion, press kits, rangling for reviews, arranging speaking engagements, booksignings, blogging, and getting involved with other social media. And when that's all in place, a new snag appears in the middle of the stream: my publisher wants to know when the next book will be ready.

It's not like I don't have another plot simmering in a subsconsious pot. But...

Sure, I can take these characters into a new mysterious situation in Harts Corner, Texas. I've scribbled a sketchy outline of the storyline, kind of know where the main scenes are needed, and I already know who the villianess is. I've got an idea of how the book will begin, have created a new character who will be the central figure in the mystery, and am beginning to hear the dialogue to move the book along to a satisfactory conclusion. In spite of all of this prework, when I sit before this blank screen and begin to input the opening chapter, I am faced with the fact that I've hit a wall early on.

My characters refuse to cooperate. MM, who tells the story in my Blue Moon Cafe series, doesn't seem to have the right voice to beckon the readers with either a smile or the drop of a bombshell. The dialogue isn't complelling and I'm not comfortable with my writing. So--I write another beginning chapter. And another. What do I do now?

Many writers would go back and rewrite until they are satisfied. Edit, correct, toss out lines, paragraphs. Everything. These authors refuse to move on until that beginning chapter is perfect. And they continue to write until they are sure the beginning will hook their readers big time.

This is not my way. I have put those chapter starts away and gone on to write the second chapter. It flows like I had hoped the first one would. It's as if the characters dug in their heels and now, in this place, at the right time, are ready to dance through their parts. What a relief!

Maybe when I go back to edit/rewrite the first draft of this book I will find this second chapter is where I should have started to begin with. Could it be that I feel the pressure already of an unknown book deadline and want to control every aspect of this book? If so, the only way to get beyond this is to sit quietly and let the story reveal itself to me. I've been with these characters for a long time, know them well and, if I let them, they will lead me through the story from beginning to end.

And since my publisher has not imposed any sort of deadline, I need to cease to allow the control freak side of my personality rule, and enjoy the exciting ride of writing a book from first chapter to last.

Thursday, June 07, 2012


As a writer, you have to have some sort of individuality in order to stand out with the crowd. If you look at all of the successful authors, you'll notice they all have their own distinctive style. What is style? Style is the words and order of those words you choose to tell a story.  It's how writers choose to say what they have to say. I give out a prompt on our writing Wednesday and classmembers write. Do any of those stories sound the same?

 Do southern writer Fannie Flagg or Rick Bragg sound like big-city Eastern writers? If Stephen King and Lee Child were given the same mysterious place to write about, do you think they would write in the same style? Al doesn't write like Charlotte. Sylvia doesn't write like Kathleen. We may address the same subject but our choice of words is definitely not the same. Part of that is because we each see the same object, event, memory in a different way—therefore, we use our special way of telling the story.

You might think you don't have a style but you do if you have been writing for any length of time. If you are a newcomer, you might want to take stock of your favorite authors—do you want to write like them. Don't copy their work but lean toward the way they put words on paper. Experiment with your writing style. Take a subject or character and write about them in different ways—humorous, very formal, mysteriously, down home comfortable, etc. It is all good practice.

I've been an advocate of journaling for years and think that's a good way to work on your style. You can use all forms of creative writing—stream of consciousness, question and answer, periodic reflection, essay, poetry, or whatever form you want to use. You will be able to see what writing style is most comfortable and best suited for you.

Talk to other writers. Go to book signings, listen to book talks on TV, and write. You need passion and interest in order to find your writing style.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012


I've been revising and revising and revising Aunt Lutie's Blue Moon Cafe. I've also been doing carpet/flooring shopping for our HOA Clubhouse. And, of course, those classes I teach eat up a great deal of time. I do have good intentions to write at least weekly on this blog but am remiss in doing so. But, as has always been my ability, no matter how tired I am, I can find energy to read--though I do tend to fall asleep somewhere along the way.

One of the articles I've read recently gave an overview of authors--and what they consider their lucky charms, or things they must do to write. That's not what they called those things sitting on the desk or the repetition of things they do, but I see them as items/events they think helps them in their chase of the muse.

One author has a figure of the Thai goddess of Mercy in her office. There are pottery pieces, special paintings or photographs, statues, and one has a special Bugs Bunny mousepad that has lasted longer than the computers they serve.

A famous author wrote at the kitchen table for years with her files and papers in plastic dish pans. She has a study now and works at a beautiful oak table. But she still files in dish pans. Another goes to a cafe, orders a latte and works on his laptop--never moving for hours--because he's afraid if he gets up someone will steal his laptop.

Some writers keep an opbject(s) they use in their books within their sight as they create:
   A coin      Stone   Bundle of letters   Clothing of the period   A quilt.

I don't feel I am superstitious. I don't have to write in any certain place, with special objects around me. I like to say I can write anywhere, anytime--even if only with a small pad and pen. But, as I look around my office, I am surrounded with things that touch my soul: family photos, pictures of our many travels, copies of my books, a watercolor by a Texas writer friend, a favorite postcard from an English friend, an oil painting by my daddy, and a rocking chair carved by an elderly student who died last week at age 97.  And just beneath my computer screen is a polished rock with one word printed on it, a word I attempt daily to follow:  FOCUS.

I see there are things that a writer can't do without.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

A Balanced Life

I think we all would like to have a more balanced life. Maybe you would like a little encouragement, a few suggestions on what you can do that might help you find that balance. Here's a few I've used when I'm out of sorts or feel like my life is really out of kilter.

Write a funny poem.
Try on hats.
Go to the zoo or a wild animal park.
Go to a park and swing with the kids.
Splash through a puddle.
Tend your garden.
Play special CD's.
Eat off your best dishes.
Try a new hairstyle.
Listen to the wind through the trees.
Get up early enough to see the sunrise.
Visit art galleries, make notes, write a poem about subject.
Bath by candlelight.
Take a long walk.
Pray or meditate.
Make those cards you've been saying you'd do.
Write a letter to someone you've been neglecting.
Call a friend who needs to hear your voice.

Tonight we went out an gazed at the largest moon in over 100 years; if that won't give you a good feeling, I don't know what will.