Saturday, December 12, 2020

Don't Let a Pandemic Take Away Your Joy This Year!

  Regardless of one's religious affiliation, or even if you don't have a religious affiliation, this is usually a season of joy and gratitude. This year should be no different--especially this year! I wanted to wish everyone a blessed season, safety and health, peace and good will. I am including a small article I did for a Tennessee paper last year. It was from a time more than thirty years ago when my children were little....

"Christmas Past"

     Christmas can be such a magical time of the year, even under adversity….

     There was a Christmas when I wondered if we’d be able to give our young children Christmas presents. I had begun working for the McMinn County School system a few months earlier and we were still recovering from six months of unemployment.

     It’s times like that when you learn to count your blessings. I finally had a job and a car to get to said job (we hadn’t had a running vehicle for several months). We found a place to rent in Athens—no stove or consistently running water, but it sheltered us. Still, the paychecks allowed no extras—no actions figures or dolls, no fancy tree, no big turkey dinner.

     Then the miracles began. A friends said, “Come out to our land and cut down a cedar to decorate.” So we did and decorated it with our family ornaments and things the kids made. Then someone at Niota School, where I worked, caught wind that we had been cooking dinners on a hot plate. So one of the teacher’s husband, who worked at Athens Stove Works, got a small stove, the teachers donated for it and we had a stove for Christmas. (Hallelujah! I could bake again!) Then a service group from local Tennessee Wesleyan College took our two kids out for an outfit and toys. The kids were so excited! Then our church brought us a turkey and all the trimmings.

     We had so much to be thankful for that year.

     We decided that we were going to pay it forward after that whenever we could. A couple of years later, we learned of someone who had fallen on hard times. We bought an outfit for each member of the family, and some toys for the kids. Our church donated a Christmas dinner for them, too. We wrapped all the presents up, loaded everything in a couple of garbage bags, and then wondered how we were going to get this onto their porch and get away without being caught. These people lived way out in the country with no neighbors within a quarter mile and no trees to hide behind.

     We got creative and let the local missionaries know what we were doing. These were strapping young eighteen and nineteen year old boys who could run—fast! We drove as close as we could without being seen, and parked next to a hedge row. The two missionaries got out with the bags, crept around the hedge row and to the porch brightly lit by a single bare lightbulb. They set everything down, banged on the door and then ran, coattails flapping. Over the hedge they leaped and into our car. Off we sped, the young missionaries and our kids laughing like crazy in the back seat.

     What a wonderful feeling that was, knowing we had helped someone as we had been helped in our time of need. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Every one of us has been given the greatest gift mankind could ever receive on Christmas Day. Let’s pay it forward a little bit. Light the world that seems to have grown a little dim with pessimism and hopelessness.

May you all be blessed with those things you stand in need of as well as the spirit of gratitude. 

A picture of an even further back Christmas past. I think I might have also wanted my two front teeth, too. LOL

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Simple Lessons Learned from Nano #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I have already waxed poetic about Nanowrimo. Not going to go into it other than to say that doing two Camp Nano's this year during a pandemic showed me something. I needed some kind of goal to give me the motivation I needed to write the novels that I knew were in me. 

For instance, in March I probably was lucky if I did a couple of thousand words during the entire month. Maybe a little more if I also counted my journal on Sundays. In April, I did 30,000 words. In May, perhaps a third of that. June was almost as dismal as March. In July, I did another 30,000. Common denominator was Camp Nano. 

 My cat influenced; didn't hinder me!

I decided that I would set a goal for August and stick to it. I decided on the same as I had done at the camp months--30,000. In August, I met that. I am close to keeping to that goal in September as well. I have finished a sequel to one sci fi novel, a prequel to a fantasy novel, and I am currently working on finishing a fourth novel to a trilogy I did a couple of years ago. What will I do next? I have a couple of ideas and a novel that needs finishing. 

I basically said to myself, "This is my job. I am going to do this. I am an author!" To my husband, "I am going in my office and work." If I need to, I will shut the door. 

I don't know how long this will last. I hope for a long time because I went to too long with those dry spells and I didn't like it. Besides, I am no spring chicken and I want to to say my piece while I can! 

If you have ideas on how you keep productive, let me know!  

 Let the ideas take flight!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Have you Heard the Latest Joke, er Tech? #AuthorToolboxBloghop

 The other day I Tweeted, then Reddit. 

I put the same ad on Facebook (about thirty or so FB pages), pinned the ad on Pinterest, posted it on Linkedin, with more shares on Twitter and Reddit; then emailed the notice to my friends and relatives. It went on Instagram with scads of hashtags (my eternal thanks to my daughter for tutoring me in those!) I begged for reviews in Goodreads. The trailer went up on YouTube, also shared to different places. Oh, yes, and I mustn't forget the updates to my web page and the new "campaign" on my mailer list!

I knew from the outset that I would be doing my own marketing, but the world of computers has exploded since my first book was published in 2010. Amazon was barely tossing out Create Space, for crying out loud. 

I caught on to website building then someone pulled out a different 'platform.'  'New and improved' have been marching along like soldiers in a Veteran's Day parade ever since. I keep trying to keep up, to learn, but my poor Pooh brain struggles sometimes. The other day I heard about something called TikTok. It's a bit controversial in some circles so not going there right now. It's hard enough learning all the nuances of Zoom, Facebook live, Google live, etc. etc. especially with Covid messing up live selling and school visits. 

I did some quick searching. There is: Snapchat, Lasso, Qzone, Tumblr, Sina Weibo,, Flickr, Wattpad, Bebo, etc.  Granted, most of these didn't appear to be great marketing outlets, however, I used to think the same thing for Instagram and Twitter. 

Then I just saw this!!! I had to pick myself up off the floor!

75+ Social Media Sites You Need to Know in 2020

Just let me figure out the top half dozen!!!  

With that said, I would love to hear anyone's success story with a particular social media platform!  

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

What's So Great About Nanowrimo? AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

I have mentioned Nanowrimo a few times, but this time I am going to wax poetic about this motivational sensation that has helped me in times past when words had a very hard time lining up coherently on a page.

For those who are uninitiated, Nanowrimo is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It started about 18 years ago when someone suggested that it would be awesome to crank out a 50,000 word novel in a month. The month chosen was November. The whole idea is to begin on November 1st and by November 30th (Drat, why couldn't they pick a month with 31 days?) have a complete novel. 

Nano claims that some of the winning authors (meaning that you have finished the 50,000 words, not that you won any kind of an award), have gone on to be traditionally published. Writing coach Jerry Jenkins crunched the numbers and determined that about 1 in every thousand participants fit in that category. That's how popular this internet writing adventure is. Millions sign up every year. While that doesn't seem like a high success rate, the real success is the fact that someone actually put their dreams on paper. 

I will admit, for many years I participated, but didn't finish. It's darned hard to work full time in a public school library and also write about 1,500 words a day. However, in the same vein, working full time and trying to be an author isn't easy either and the motivation usually died on Interstate 75 as I drove home in the evening. 

Nanowrimo made me think of what I wanted to accomplish--a novel/50,000 words in a month. It gave me something to work for instead of making excuses and watching Wheel of Fortune. I had done a novel a month in my fan fiction days, but as I grew older, passed into mainstream authorship, the ability to stay up until 1 am and drive to work five hours later waned as did the motivation to sit down in the evening and work on a novel. So Nano helped me keep my attention on the story. It has given me the impetus to calendar time to work on my writing; something that most writing coaches tell you has to be done to be successful. 

Over the years I have actually had at least one or two novels end up being published that I had worked on during a Nano month--even if I hadn't made the 50,000 word goal. And the good news? After Nano became an annual phenomenon, they created Camp Nano. That takes place in April and July (working on one now). With Camp Nano, you can set your own goals. I usually do 25,000 words. 

Are my novels ready for prime time publishing on the 31st of the month? Of course not, but I have something I can work on, improve, send to my writing groups and eventually to a publisher. I am grateful for Nanowrimo. I am grateful for the sense of accomplishment that I have after fulfilling the goals. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Sometimes Newer is not Always Better #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

      Earlier this year, I did something I had said I was going to do for a long time—see if anyone—absolutely anyone—among web hosts supported FrontPage.

      I can hear the tech folks out there right now, laughing their heads off. Still, I was serious. When my, then, current web host quit the FrontPage extensions some years back, they suggested I use FTP. I used one for a few years, even while the web host was pushing me to switch to Word Press. Finally, even the FTP (file transfer protocol) quit moving my update successfully. 

      Okay, I get it. Word Press is what a majority of business web sites are built with, but it’s not that easy to figure out. At least for me. I had earlier heard it was more difficult, and maybe that gave me a bit of a block. Who knows? However, I was told that if I wanted the friendly techs at the web hosting outfit to help me, or do it for me, it was just a low fee. (Now I am laughing!)

      I was also told there were a couple of easier web building platforms and my web host offered them for free. Great! I tried and they didn’t seem that much easier. Besides, the free was for a couple of pages. Seriously? Three pages? For a business?

     So I finally had the bright idea to see if anyone—anyone!—still supported FrontPage. And I found a couple. I picked the one that seemed to have the best reputation and switched my site over to them. The start-up was a bit bumpy at times, but not as bad as I thought it would be. Finally, I (we--their techs were very nice) got it up. Since then, I have realized just how easy it was to fix changes on my web site and load the pages up with FrontPage extensions.

      Don’t get me wrong. At the beginning of this millennium FrontPage was hard for me to pick up, but when I did, it was love! Now I have redone my author site using some “best practices” from one of those online author courses. What bells and whistles I couldn’t add with FrontPage, I built with another service and plunked them onto my pages as jpegs or gifs. And when I’m ready, I just tell my FP to publish the page, put in my password and Bam! It’s there!

      To be honest, I have used the original FrontPage 2000 for almost twenty years. I only recently searched and found a brand new FrontPage 2003 update and loaded it into my computer. It has some nice upgrades from the old dinosaur, but I haven’t diligently looked into them yet. I am just happy to have something that is easy, quick, and doesn’t take me away from the other things that go along with the business of writing—like writing.  

Where there is a will, there is a way. Check out my website and see what you think.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020


When I wrote an earlier blog, we were just in the beginnings of this 'new normal.' My cat and writing were keeping me sane. It's the beginning of June and, while there is some normalization, it's not like it used to be. It's not, "Oops, my chicken needs some oregano. I'd better run to Wal-Mart and grab some." My husband and I are part of that 'at risk' group who are supposed to be staying at home and letting someone younger do our shopping. While I do admit that ordering on line and doing curb pick-up is kind of handy at times, it doesn't beat cruising the aisles (for what you forgot to put on the list), at least for my husband. Before the pandemic, Wal-Mart was one of his exercise regimens. Two hours of walking. 

So now what? Most of the time I can talk him into earlier in the morning when it's less crowded, and maybe once a week instead of every day or every other day. (Hey, I like to shop like everyone else!) Or Sam's instead of Wal-Mart. It's not that he believes that his rights are being stomped on. He understands that this virus is deadly. He has his face mask ready as do I, but he can't stand the house after a week or so cooped up. (Gotten rather hot outside, too). On the other hand, even through we watch the scary news, there is still a small part of the brain that sees the virus as remote, off the scope of my internal radar and I'm sure it is the same for my husband. 

And then there are the protests. Again, small part of the brain sees the events on the TV remotely, but then I see what caused it and feel a mother's pain when I hear a dying man call his mama who had passed before him. I think about when I was growing up (without having to be afraid of such a thing happening to anyone in my family) and seeing protests. I am almost seventy now and it's sad to think that not much has changed in 60 or more years. 

I don't want anyone feeling sad or angry with this note, but please just think! Think about those who do feel fear when they leave their house. And think about how we can treat those around us-everyone!-with more compassion. More like we have been taught to treat others. Please understand, looting and breaking others property is totally wrong. Feeling frustration for a system that doesn't treat everyone fairly is totally right. Wanting to fix it is even more right, but I believe that it comes more from the heart than from laws. Laws help, but let's work on the heart at the same time.

Sorry, I had to speak a bit of my piece--publicly. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Where do the Stories Come From? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

Where do the Stories Come From?

Someone once asked me where my stories came from. I will have to be honest, many of them came from the television I watched. Yes--that great wasteland we were told in the seventies would rot a child's brain. When I was a kid, I watched a great deal of Westerns. They were the big thing back then. I have a picture to prove it!

Tuckered out saving the West.

I watched television for a while and then created new stories for my favorite characters. I won't tell you which characters. The picture will give you a good clue as to how long ago this was. As I grew up, I used those settings and some of the characters, threw in my imagination and had so much fun. Alaska, New Orleans, forests and beaches, I could make up stories wherever I was.

In my grown up years, that imagination drew me toward fan-fiction. I have scads of stories. They were easier to write and didn't depend on publishers, agents, marketing, or the like. But eventually, that wasn't enough. My writing had improved and I wanted my book on that shelf; something I had totally created and that others enjoyed reading. So where did these new ideas come from?

Let's take my latest novel, Moon Crusher. That one actually came from my fan-fiction days--sort of. I thought to myself- What would happen if a boy from the old days (1829 California-just a little past the time of most Zorro stories) was captured by fearsome reptilian aliens?  It's not that there weren't alien abduction stories. It's not that there aren't stories about old timey folks meeting technology. Or modern technology going back in time to meet pre-industrial individuals. There are plenty. I just had to give it my own spin.

I wrote my draft when I went to the YMCA to work out on a recumbent bike. I was a school librarian in those days, so I took my opportunities when I could. I had a notebook, a pencil, tuned out Bill O'Reilly, and wrote while I pedaled. It was disjointed, sometimes unreadable, but the story of a young boy in overwhelming circumstances took shape. And what's more incredible, the big bad aliens took shape, too. They weren't just demonic reptiles or cats or whatever. They had personalities. Despite his gruff, sometimes angry demeanor, Commander Ziron became heroic. Diego's friend, Rreengrol became his BFF. The otter people were both amusing and courageous. They were slaves who wanted to be free just as Diego did.

A reviewer pointed out that this wasn't just a story of space battles and a boy overcoming horrendous odds; it was also about diversity and how a group of very different beings learned to live and work together.

Wow! I like that. I like that in the stories I read, too. All about getting along even when life stinks....

Check out

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

News and stuff

At the beginning of the year, I made a promise that I would post a blog once a month. Already blown it by missing April. Maybe I'll make up for it in May by posting more than one. Believe I really will as I signed up for a blog hop. Never heard of it until my publisher mentioned them.

Anyway, April was a very busy month, even with the craziness going on. The first part of the month was not a good writing time, but with Camp Nano calling the shots, I was obligated to write a certain amount by the end of the month. My intention was to finish a sci fi I had been working on for over a year now, but after I began doing edits on my upcoming book Moon Crusher, I suddenly had an idea for a sequel to that book and now have over 20,000 words on Moon Crusher 2. I worked with the editor during the month of April, and received an attachment of a cover for the book last week. Moon Crusher is coming out on May 25th! Very exciting, even if time before its debut is limited.

Another exciting event was the debut of an anthology from Bold Venture Press called Zorro, the Daring Escapades, which contains a novelette I wrote. To be perfectly honest, I feel legitimized in the writing of fan-fiction. What I have read in the book so far, these are very good stories!

This is going to be a short one. Have to get back to writing!!!

Monday, March 30, 2020

What a Month This Has Been!

     At the beginning of the month of March, I was winging my way to Tennessee for meetings and hopefully book distribution.  I did the former, sharing my second Billy Bob story with my writer friends in the Etowah Writer's Guild, as well as meeting with my compatriots in the Author's Guild of Tennessee.  Book distribution didn't happen, which was probably just as well considering how the month tanked.
Lovely east Tennessee

     I managed to get a little writing done at my friend, Patricia Crumpler's (Benevolence, Fins and Fables, Sorrow Song, and Death and Disorder) house. What we did more of was relax and watch Perry Mason. Don't ask why a predominately science fiction writer is so hooked on an old courtroom show, but we both are. I didn't realize this would probably be my last trip for a while, nor my last church meeting in church either.
     My trip home was comfortable, there were empty seats on the plane. Waiting in the Atlanta airport were people wearing face masks and sitting several seats apart. I had to get home to realize just how hard it was to find some of those face masks--and toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, bleach, and canned beans! Hand sanitizer, I managed to find at the third Walgreen's I stopped in before my trip. After the trip, forget it!
     I came home to the declaration of a pandemic and the aforementioned panic in the Wal-mart aisles. Why toilet paper has been so hard to find is almost as great a mystery to me as the cure for the corona virus is at present. Still and all, I live in a household with an at risk senior. I think I am a slightly at risk senior, too. We are now under a shelter in place declaration. (At least Mayor Tim Holt made it sound less painful.)  But when you live in a house with a gregarious man with cabin fever, it's painful!!
     Then there are the platitudes of- "But you can get so much writing done!" No, I haven't gotten so much writing done. Staying home everyday doesn't automatically mean you produce words. Stress doesn't produce words. We have worked in the flower bed, taken some long walks, driven to Lake Overholser. I have also done a great deal of editing, and I have signed up for Camp Nano in April. I do have several projects that need attention. I suspect I will have a great deal of time for all of them.
     And I keep reminding myself often as I wash my hands, watch the news, talk to my grandkids on Zoom... this, too, shall pass. It will pass!

     Y'all stay well and safe!

      PS from Scamp- "Virus? What virus?" 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Thoughts from all Ranges of the Spectrum

More news!  Exciting news! I have a children's book with Doodle and Peck Publishing that is slated to come out later this year. It's called The Legend of Billy Bob Flybottom. It is written in the style of a tall tale and has won several awards from Royal Palm Literary (Florida) competition, Oklahoma City Writers competition and from Oklahoma Writers Federation. It will be illustrated. (I have seen some of them and they are wonderful!)

As I mentioned in a blog some time ago, my first book was an historical fiction about the beginning of the Mission San Luis Rey in California and had Native American characters. I am not Native American, but had several critique's and editors go over everything. I felt it fair to all the characters, or as fair as I could be, but ultimately it was fiction. Most of the plot was made up. I recently wrote a young adult science fiction where Native American characters abducted from their homelands have to adapt to their new homes on distant planets. I sent it to a contest and received a comment that only Native Americans should be writing about Native Americans.
To be perfectly honest, I was somewhat upset, even as I knew where the prevailing thought had come from. But where would Island of the Blue Dolphins have come from? The Cay, The Sign of the Beaver, Julie of the Wolves, all written about people of other cultures by people who weren't part of those cultures, or that gender, or that time in history. All of these books are classics of young adult and children's literature. Below is a link to an article that addresses that controversy. A lot of food for thought.

And to finish this off, the groundhog may have had it right. It was bright and sunny on Groundhog's Day last weekend, (where I live), but it was sure snowy today!!!  Beautiful stuff, but not all that comfy out walking the dog. Still and all, I am glad to see a nice layer of fluffy snow each winter. Especially when I don't have to go anywhere!

Monday, January 13, 2020

A New Year!

A new year always brings new hopes and new adventures. 

Boy, is this one is starting off with a bang!!

😊I have a new interview on Qwerty. It was a pleasure working with these people and enjoyed the results! I think they did a very good job! Check it out on the link below:

😊Included is a brand new picture that I am very pleased with. It was taken by professional photographers this past Christmas. I believe this one is going to be my new author picture. I sent a copy to one of my publishers and she liked it as well.

😊The other new bit of news is the publication of a novelette in a 100 year anniversary collection about Zorro from Bold Venture Press. (Johnston McCulley's masked hero first appeared in 1920.) The book is tentatively scheduled to come out in May. Links are below:

Zorro capture from the Walt Disney television show.