A Short but Lovely Season

I’m sitting at my writing desk with the window open next to me. A soft breeze and the sounds of birdsong and children are drifting in. My coffee cup has steam rising from it and the lovely scent of roasted beans fills my head. I love this time of year when I can open the windows and have life complement the stories going on in my head. I have such a small amount of time to enjoy it though. Before I know it I’ll have to shut the windows against the heat while artificial AC fills the room. And only a couple of weeks ago we had snow, so the windows were shut against that as well.

I’ll stop whining now and just enjoy the spring weather I have. I’m filled with optimism. Now that my traveling has ended for the time being and my broken shoulder is mending, my work days have been productive and on schedule. Such a relief! My writing schedule for now is daily from 8 a.m. to Noon. I’m still writing in the afternoons when I feel like it, but I’m leaving that time open as well for daily chores and appointments as well as just time away from the desk. I have to allow myself time to read, walk, or enjoy art or music. Otherwise, my well runs dry and I my imagination gets stuck.

I hope your own springtime is fruitful (at least for those of you in the northern hemisphere).



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Time Flies Even When You’re Not Having Fun

Well, last time I posted I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of winter and seasonal depression. I was looking forward to more sunshine and the last good skiing of the year. So what did I do? I managed to take a mighty tumble on the mountain and break my shoulder. My right shoulder, which is, of course, my dominant arm. There’s a lot more to this story which many other people will already know, but I’ll spare you the details of a day that was stranger than fiction.

The first two weeks were a haze of pain and pain medication. Since then, I’ve been improving the strength and dexterity of my left hand and discovering the medically approved torture system called “physical therapy”. All of this has put a spanner in my day-to-day work and set me back even further. But it hasn’t all been a terrible time. I’ve re-discovered the wonderful support and love of friends and family. You guys and gals have been great. I don’t know what I would have done without all of you.

I was also able to take a long planned trip to Rome, Italy. Traveling with your arm in a sling isn’t ideal, but it can be done. My doctors have said that I show definite signs of healing and the sling can come off in about another week and a half. (Lots of PT still ahead of me though).

I’ll be flying again tomorrow to New Orleans for the RT Booklovers Convention. This will be a great way for me to get my focus back onto my writing and a daily schedule. Nothing like being surrounded by many other writers and book fans to get the mojo flowing again. It’s been a difficult year so far but I’m trying to stay focused on the positive and to keep moving forward. Wish me luck and I’ll eat a beignet for you!

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When Melancholia is at the door…



What happens when you invite the Muse, but Melancholia is the one who knocks at the door?

I rarely talk about this with family and friends because it seems to surprise me every winter. Christmas ends, the excitement of January plans and resolutions starts to fade, and then gloom sets in. February is the worst – dark, gray days and foul weather just add to my doldrums. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I become clinically depressed. I’m normally a very cheerful person and I can fake my way through social engagements, but work becomes a slog and there is no creative spark. I feel helpless in getting projects finished and all ambition flies out the window.

When my production schedules fall behind, and I really  have no one to blame but myself, I feel even more closed down and out-of sorts. Negative thinking rules my brain – “I have no talent,” “I’m lazy,” “I have no one to help me,” “my health is going down the toilet,” “I’m going to die all alone and friendless.”

I know these things aren’t true and that there are things that will help me get back on track: exercise, healthy food, meditation, and a regular routine. But how the hell do I jump start this? It all seems impossible.

But then, I see the magic words on the calendar: March, 20th. The first day of spring. Already the days are getting longer and warmer and brighter. Here in Colorado there will still be days of snow storms ahead, but even the snow has a different quality in the spring and it gives me hope.

Is this seasonal affective disorder? Most likely, but it seems ridiculous to suffer this in one of the sunnier states of the country. I can’t imagine what it must be like in the northeast, or in Seattle. I’m not going to ignore it any longer. I’m coming out of the problem now, but I’m going to get a plan of action in place for next year. Any suggestions would be welcome. I may just have to take a two month trip to Mexico.


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The Excitement of a Brand New Year

The end of November, I published my first novel. Sharp Focus is the first book in a series of mysteries featuring a photographer sleuth. I had already self-published short stories, but this was the first novel and I was making it available both as digital and as POD. Learning covers and formatting was like going back to school again. A huge learning curve, but kind of fun as well.

Right after publication, I left the country for a trip to Europe. I had a wonderful time seeing the Christmas markets in Austria, Germany and Prague, but I felt like half of me was at home, anxiously waiting to see how my book baby was being received.

My marketing plan is to wait until I have a larger body of work before I fully push for sales and readers, but I can happily say that my first book has met my sales expectations (admittedly low as a first time novelist). I come into this new year, 2014, with a feeling of accomplishment as well as a daunting list of projects to complete now that I have the ball rolling.

My friends and family have been amazingly supportive and I thank all of them for their encouragement and purchases.

Some things to look forward to this year are publication of Depth of Field: the second in the mystery series, a contemporary fantasy novel, a romantic suspense novel, more short stories and compilations, and then…we’ll see how much time is left in the year. I’ll be posting more regular updates, hopefully weekly, on this blog as to how things are going as well as my observations on this literary life.

Paper and digital at Amazon, digital at B&N, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords

Paper and digital at Amazon, digital at B&N, iBooks, Kobo and Smashwords

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Peer Pressure …In a Good Way

A little over a week ago, a friend and I went to my parents’ place in the mountains to get away from distractions and devote our time to writing and other work. Things didn’t quite go as planned. We both live in Colorado, and when news of the severe flooding that was happening got to us we were almost glued to our seats watching satellite tv in order to learn what was happening to friends and family in the affected areas. Luckily our own homes were safe, if not dry.

The day before that, though, we got some work done. And aside from the tragedy going on a few hours away from us later that week, I’m prepared to say the experiment was a success.

One thing I had learned about myself when I was in college was that I did my best studying when I was in a study group. As long as I was working with the right people, the heavy concentration going on around me kept me at work on my own materials.

When I’m alone at home, I sometimes get distracted by the phone, chores to be done, books to read, or the cat to play with. And let’s not forget the tempting playground of the internet and the many paths to follow, all in the name of “research”.

When I feel the need to get some concentrated work done, or if I’m under a deadline and not feeling motivated at home, I’ll often take myself off to my local Denver Public Library branch or a coffee shop. It’s more often the coffee shop because I love coffee and the sound levels are about the same as the library – believe it or not.

It may seem that those places would have their own distractions, but I can usually find one or more people to sit near who are working on their own projects on their laptops or workbooks. I don’t know if it’s a concentration bubble I’ve entered, or if I’m just tuning in to the sound of other people working, but I am usually able to get some solid work in and the time flies by me. When I’m working with other like-minded people, a sort of hum sets in in the back of my mind, chills run down my spine, and the creativity flows with synapses sparking.

So, I’ll definitely be trying a similar work weekend in the mountains again soon. Though probably not by myself. I would be too tempted to go fishing or hiking. Yep, I work better under peer pressure.


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Trying My Hand at Memoir

My Grandmother's KitchenMy Grandmother, Ina Mae, was a large influence on me and on the other members of our family. But what I remember most of all are the large family dinners we would have for holidays and birthdays and other celebrations. Everyone was welcome, and when I was in college, my friends loved coming with me to her house for dinner where they were sure to get more than enough to eat.

She has been gone for some years now but I still think about her regularly and I wanted to honor her in some way. I had also been thinking about putting together a book of essays on food.  (Food is often on my mind and can be a bit of an obsession.) So I decided to start with a short essay about my Grandmother and how she taught me to appreciate a plentiful table.

I had not appreciated until now how difficult writing memoir can be. Everyone’s memory is faulty, and what one person remembers as truth could be remembered completely differently by someone else.

Also, the further back I go in my memories, the fuzzier things get. I have bits and flashes of scenes, but dialogue? – rarely.

So I did the best I could for now, and really, it’s more of a summary of my memories of her. I’m in awe of what writers like Mary Karr can do. Her memoir The Liars’ Club is truly amazing.

This short ebook about my Grandmother is available now on Amazon and will soon also be available for Nook and Kobo. Later this year, as the other essays come together, I’ll release them as a compilation in ebook form and as a paper book.


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Is Social Networking Just a Marketing Tool?

I recently read a wonderful book, “Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time” by Keith Ferrazzi. The book was aimed at the business world – aspiring CEOs and entrepreneurs, but the lessons could be applied by anyone who wants to make some connections with other people. The goal is to create authentic and meaningful relationships in order to succeed in work and life.

The book made me think about my own personal relationships with people. Making friends in grade school was relatively easy just by proximity. In a room filled with 30 other people who are your same age, live in the same area, and are exposed to the same lessons and expectations, it’s simple to bond and form attachments. This observation isn’t meant to diminish my friendships made during those years. One of my very best friends I’ve known since kindergarten. I won’t tell you how long ago this was because the math is too difficult, but it was many years ago. (Ok, fine! It was 38 years ago. Stupid math.)

In a way, college was even easier. The campus was full of people who were there to meet others and to learn. Self discovery was paramount and there were many people with diverse backgrounds to help with this. Not needing to support myself thanks to my parents and scholarships (thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a lot of free time to devote to friends and studies and projects. Some of my best memories and friendships were from college.

Ever since then, making friends has become much more difficult, and really most of that responsibility has to rest on my shoulders, because in the real world, making and maintaining friends is work. When things were easy in school, I didn’t need to learn how to meet other people outside of work and how to cultivate those meetings by connecting by phone, email, coffee meetings, etc. Fear of rejection was also a limiting factor, but Ferrazzi’s book shows that by making the effort to learn about others and by finding what interests them, you’re less likely to be rejected. Everyone likes to be liked, and when someone makes the effort to learn your name and shows real interest in what matters to you, it’s hard not to like them.

These lessons can be applied as well to artists and writers who are trying to promote and market their work. So many writers seem to scream at everyone they know to buy their just published book. “Buy! Buy! Buy!” What they should be doing is creating relationships online and in person, building trust and interest in their work. While quietly building support and an inventory of material, the artist will find people who like their work, who want to read or buy more, and who will share their interest with other people they know. Finding the niche markets will be more profitable in the end than lambasting everyone with marketing attempts in hopes of having a best seller. Yes, this takes some work and time, and many writers are shy and just want to live inside their books and the universes they create – but this is no longer possible in today’s world.

Yes, I will let my blog readers and Facebook followers know when new stories, novels and photographs are available. But I also intend to provide content that people will find interesting and share observations about my life that will bring you into my world a little bit and allow you to know me.  Hopefully readers and friends will comment and share their own observations and a community of meaningful connections will form. I’ll also work on cultivating friendships in my day-to-day life. Humans are meant to live in community, and while it might take a bit more effort in today’s hectic, fast-paced world, it will be worth it


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