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Friday, September 17

The Desk

I've written about it before. It's a teacher's desk my son Jock's friend and mentor, Rod Zwick, used at Lyndon State College. If you pull out the writing shelf on the right side, his 2007 list of phone numbers for Lyndon staff is still there, taped to its surface. 

The top of the old oak desk is stained and scarred. It's huge and heavy. I'm not sure how many sons and grandsons carried it into my office that day Jock brought it from Vermont, but it was several, and none of them have offered to move it since.

I can barely see the top of it. This is because I'm a slob creative being who wants everything at my fingertips. I never have to get up for tissues, scrap paper, or notes, because they're right there. So is my coffee cup, another cup stuffed with pens, nail files, and things to cut with, and yet a third cup I...well, I don't know why it's there. It just is.

It is the best place in the world. 

The computer with its big screen that replaced the laptop in the picture sits on top of it. I talk to Nan almost every morning, sprint with the Wranglers and other writers, and stare through the window beside me at the view my son says never changes but does for me. Every day. 

My desk is a replica of the teachers' desks when I was in elementary school, before school consolidation. Our desks were on runners, with the desktop attached to the back of the seat in front of you. The floors were hardwood, the blackboards really black, and memories went through the halls, slipping quiet and unobtrusive among the thousands of students who went there. 

It was from those teachers at those desks that I learned to love writing, that being a geek was okay. Not that they sat at them much; they were always up and moving. Teaching and listening and occasionally threatening. 

Oh, we all know how I feel about teachers, don't we? I didn't mean for this to be about them, but about the Desk. But it all goes together, quiet and unobtrusive like those memories. Filling so many empty spaces. 

It's where I've written several books, had my heart made whole when they came out, and--not surprisingly; I'm a writer--having the same heart broken when they're rejected. It's where I can find peace no matter how elusive it is. It amazes me how much of my heart is in unison with that slab of wood.

My next book of essays will be out soon. I had a time with the title, because Window Over the Sink has been the title of my column / blog for over 30 years. What else could I call it? 

What else indeed? Window Over the Desk will be out soon. I'm so excited about so many things with the book, not the least of which is the cover by Maddie Jacobs. What do you think?

Sending greetings to you from this behemoth of oak this lovely week in September. Also thanks to Rod Zwick for handing it down and my son and his family for hauling it all the way from Vermont. I think Jock had the idea I would give the desk back eventually. We've I've already decided he can have it after my funeral.

 If you feel like sharing, tell us about something that matters to you like the desk does to me. And why. 

Tuesday, September 14

Do You Have a Writing Process?

 Is there such a thing? Now there's an interesting question...

Fact is, I want to be able to tell you that I write x number of hours each day and set word count goals. I want to tell you that the writing always, always comes first, that I pop out of bed at 4:30 each morning and get my 1000 to 1500 words in before the sun rises. I want to tell you that I’m a disciplined outliner, that I make timelines and character studies, and that I know from word one who all my characters are, where the story’s going, and how it will end. That is process to me and real writers—professional authors—have a process. Right? 

Well, I do none of those things. I write when I can write, squeezing words in between editing gigs or staying up late at night when the muse is kicking my creative ass. I take copious notes on scraps of paper, napkins, on the voice recorder app on my phone when ideas hit me or I hear a word that I like or characters start having a conversation in my head and there's no pencil and paper handy.  For what it's worth, since I started writing for Tule, I've gotten a little more of a writing process going by getting up at 6 a.m. and trying to get a couple hours of writing in before my day actually begins. I've been doing writing sprints with the other Wranglers and sometimes with my fellow Tule authors, but to say I've developed a real process would be stretching the point. 

Whether we can consider my methods a writing process is up for debate, but so far, it's mostly working. I just wrote THE END on novel #12 and will be turning it in to my editor tomorrow. (I made my deadline!) If my semi-process changes for some reason, if I stop doing copy-editing gigs (which would mean I hit the lottery), or if my novels suddenly take off like crazy and I'm selling books by the millions, my process might get more disciplined. But you know, I'm guessing not because I'm simply not that methodical. 

My editing career is the most disciplined area of my life and honestly compels me to tell you that I am a disciplined copy editor because I care about doing good work for my clients because they're paying me. Facts are facts. I love my job, but if I miss deadlines or do a sloppy edit, I don't get paid. The writing pays, but not as consistently or as well as the editing right now and I've grown accustomed to eating, and okay, decent wine. But the writing? The writing I do for love and that's a good reason to work hard, process or no, right? 

Writers, do you have a process? Does it work for you? Let's talk!

Stay well, stay safe, for now, wear your mask, and most of all stay grateful,

Friday, September 10

Retirement Calling by Jana Richards

I've got a lot going on in my life right now. Aside from working on two WIPs and launching UNEXPECTED into the world, I made the decision to retire from my part-time day job this fall. I haven't set an exact date; our fiscal year end was June 30 and we are in the process of having our annual audit done. Once that is completely finished, I will hang up my calculator. In the meantime, I'm busy training someone else to do all the fun things I do in accounting. 

I've thought about retiring before, at least a couple of times, but this time it's for sure. I like my work and I really like the people I work with, but I'm not as excited about coming to work as I used to be. We had quite a bit of turnover at the office in the last year with people going on to new jobs, so things aren't quite the same, and it's taken some of the wind out of my sails. After fifteen years, I've finally decided it's time to go.

I'm looking forward to this new chapter in my life. I've only worked part-time at this job, so it's always allowed me time to write, but perhaps now I can be even more productive, or maybe I can do more marketing things, like audiobooks. My only fear is that I'll procrastinate, thinking I've got all the time in the world. Yep, done that before.

But for the first time in my life, I can call myself a full-time writer! Yay!

Speaking of writing, and marketing, I have a couple of sales I want to tell you about.

The pre-order sale for UNEXPECTED continues for another week, until September 17. Pick up your ecopy at Amazon and Apple for $2.99. 

A marriage of convenience. An unexpected love.

Single dad Ben Greyson wants only to retain custody of his two stepdaughters. A dysfunctional childhood has made family the most important thing in his life. When his late wife's parents sue for custody, a desperate Ben is left with two choices – run away with his girls or marry his next-door neighbor.

Jamie Garven wants to be a mother. She's intrigued by her handsome new neighbor and falls in love with his little girls. Then Ben is faced with losing his children, and Jamie agrees to marry him for a chance at motherhood. They're determined to show the world, and the girls' grandparents, two loving parents.

Their marriage of convenience turns into unexpected love. But Ben interprets Jamie's efforts to save their family as betrayal—they could lose everything, including each other.

Read an excerpt on my website

And this week, TO HEAL A HEART, book 2 in the Masonville series, is on sale for .99 cents at Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble.

Two souls in pain, two hearts in need of rescue.

Garrett Saunders' world changed two years ago on a road in Afghanistan. Back home, he feels like a stranger. As he struggles to find his place in the world, he meets a horse destined for the slaughterhouse and a woman bent on rescuing the strays of the world, including him.

Blair Greyson moves to Masonville to look after her ailing grandfather and give her rescue horses a home. Right away she butts heads with a surly former Marine. Despite a rocky start, they come to an agreement: Blair will board Garrett's rescue horse and he'll help with repairs around her farm.

Garrett finds purpose working with Blair—and falls in love with her. But she's hiding a secret. Can she forgive herself and accept Garrett's love, or will she let guilt and regret continue to rule her life?

Read an excerpt on my website.  

Tuesday, September 7

Weathering the Storm - by Janie DeVos


     I must admit, over the last few days, I’ve been running back and forth to my television to catch the latest information on hurricane Ida.  First thing in the morning, I’d click on the TV to get an updated forecast track as this formidable storm churned across the water toward the Gulf Coast states.  I told my husband last night that I think we suffer from PTSD after having gone through hurricane Andrew (a category 5 storm), in 1992, while still living in South Florida.  He couldn’t disagree.  Being native Miamians, we’ve lived through too many to count, and with each blow, we became more and more worn out from the many clean-ups and repairs, power outages and empty grocery store shelves that are just considered a way of life when living in storm country. 

I come from a whole line of hurricane survivors being that my family has lived in Miami since 1916.  They started this long legacy of surviving monster storms by living through the 1926 hurricane.  (To read more about my family’s hellish night of survival when their roof blew off during the hurricane, please see  I’ve marveled over the years that they had the fortitude (or stubbornness), to continue to face these storms decade after decade with absolutely no plan or desire to leave the area.  I, on the other hand, had finally had enough when hurricane Wilma’s eye moved right over our neighborhood in Ft. Lauderdale, as she battered our house with the almighty strength of a category three storm throughout the night.  

As we sat there huddled on our bed with our two Basset hounds on our laps, listening to the horrific banging and groaning of our house taking a tremendous beating like an amateur boxer in the ring with Muhammad Ali, I turned to my husband and said, “I’m done.” 

“Huh?” he distractedly asked as he quickly looked over at our shuttered window when another aerial assault by some unknown object slammed against it. 

“I’ve had enough.  I’m done with these storms.  I’m packing up the car and heading to our little place in North Carolina as soon as I can.  I’m done.”   

He thought I was joking, but after clearly seeing (by flashlight) the dead-serious look on my face, he knew I wasn’t. 

“You’re welcome to come with me,” I laughed, trying for a little levity, though he didn’t laugh along as he knew I wasn’t kidding. 

By far, my husband and I aren’t the only ones to move to higher ground to live out the rest of our lives.  There are thousands of Floridians who have chosen to leave hurricane country behind, and now, with the devastating wildfires making some of the west coast nearly uninhabitable, we’re seeing an influx of west coasters moving here, too; not to mention northerners who are snow-storm weary, as well as folks who have had enough of hundred-plus degree summers.  It’s amazing how weather moves us, literally and figuratively speaking, and how extremes of heat, rain, fire and water (or lack thereof), shape our lives and influence us in so many ways.  And artists are certainly no exception to that rule.  

Take for instance that in one of my novels, The Rising of Glory Land, a hurricane wreaks havoc with my characters’ home and hotel, putting them in the unenviable position of trying to figure out how they are going to make a living and where.  And, in Beneath a Thousand Apple Trees, a freeze threatens my characters’ livelihood with their apple orchard.  Now, in my work-in-progress manuscript, Wednesdays at the Wabash Diner, a drought nearly bankrupts a town after devastating its sugarcane industry, quickly turning it into a dry and dusty faded image of what it once had been. 

Musicians are no different when it comes to weather playing an important role in inspiring them.  Think of all of the music that’s been written about weather: “Stormy Weather”; “Fire and Rain”; and “Let it Snow”, to name a very few. 

Then there are the books: The Long Hot Summer; The House of Sand and Fog; and The Snow Child, for example.  And the movies: The Perfect Storm; Singin’ in the Rain; and Twister, again, just to name a very few. 

Yes, there’s no doubt about it; weather moves us, physically, emotionally and creatively.  And though it’s a terrible ordeal when we’re in the midst of it, eventually the sun comes out, the winds calm, the fires are doused, and we breathe a sigh of relief.  Then, through sheer stubbornness, determination, or lack of any other recourse, we get on with life. We’re resilient, funny creatures, we are, who are so often inspired to create beautiful things by those things that challenge us, horrify us, or even take us to the near-breaking point.  We just have to remember to watch for the rainbow after the storm.  Just ask L. Frank Baum, after all, he couldn’t have gotten Dorothy to Oz without the help of that little tornado. 

May God bless all of the tired and weather-weary with gentler days to come, and plenty of loving hands to help them along their way.










Friday, September 3

The Chrysalis of an Idea

by Margie Senechal

I love ideas.

Ideas begin as a caterpillar walking across the sidewalk. They’re a bit plain, really. Maybe just a word or a phrase. Just enough to get the cogs turning.

Sometimes the idea has a stripe or two and the more you think on it, the more beautiful the stripes become.

When I was working at Burlington, I loved it when we got new suitcases in. Which is weird, because it had been years since I’d gone anywhere, and I certainly didn’t have the money to travel then. But I’d walk through them, imagining places waiting for me to explore them.

And that was when I thought, “I could collect suitcases like some women collect purses.” And I went to my locker and wrote it down. On my lunch, I fleshed it out to a third person paragraph about collecting suitcases but never going anywhere.

The next day I brainstormed and wondered why I—well, my character, Analise—never went anywhere. Now, I love brainstorming. I use an array of pens in all different colors and textures. I write upside down and sideways on the paper. I add notes along the margins of the paragraphs, insert notes in-between the lines of sentences and draw arrows, flowers, and houses. I’m a writer, not an artist as my doodles will prove.

With Ana, I considered having her be a sleeper spy—because that’s right in my wheelhouse and the mother character was her handler. And there might have been a code word that activated her.

Once I eliminated the sleeper agent storyline, I focused on the mother-daughter angle and began developing my storyline. Which to me is just getting the words on the paper without a map or outline.

I added Danny, the love interest in the second chapter. He'd lost his hand, his wife, and his daughter in a horrific car accident. And because of the accident he's unable to drive or even be in a car. 

 And there's a sweet little open market with a few quirky characters, Hope, a really bad-at-her-job Soul Retrieval agent, long-jumping, softball, a kitten who just appeared this week, and eventually a happy ending. 

And so, I’ve been working on this book without an end in sight for years. And years (just ask my bff Chris, who keeps asking/begging for the end).

Thanks to our writing retreat a few weeks ago, I think I’m finally on the right track and a bright light is leading me toward the end of my very long tunnel.

Then I will send my book out (be watching your email, Chris) and there will be a chrysalis period and then if I'm lucky, it will be a beautiful butterfly floating onto the bookshelves.


Until then, stay safe and find your own butterflies to follow.


Tuesday, August 31

Where Has Summer Gone? @AuthorKristina Knight

Wrangler Liz just emailed me - I completely forgot my posting day here on the blog. I can't believe I forgot, but as I was setting up this week in my planner I was looking at September. And completely missed the fact that it was still August (and therefore my Tuesday to blog!) today. 

I'd like to say I have a really good excuse for forgetting - like we took an impromptu trip - but the truth is that I don't really have a good excuse. I have excuses, but they're maybe not good ones. 

Like it's been pretty busy at the dayjob (grant writing) for the past month. 

bebe started school on Friday, had an orthodontist appointment yesterday, and we're still getting into that routine. 

I really, really want a vacation and it's making me forgetful of all the other things. For a day or a week. I want to be somewhere different - preferably a beach, but I'm not picky at this point. 

COVID has gotten wild where we live, with super high community spread which means we're doing my MILs shopping, doing intense cleanings of our know that drill! 

RadioMan's sports season is going full-force, so he's away several nights each week and we're taking advantage of all the time we can as a family. 

I've been writing, which is really the only good excuse I have for forgetting to blog. Working on a couple of new things that I'm excited about...but can't really get into detail yet because I'm not sure if they'll go trad-pub or if I'll publish myself. 

I thought this summer would be super relaxed and easy. It turns out, this summer wasn't super busy but relaxed didn't really make it in to the schedule. We were planning for bebe's return to school (which means school shopping, vaccination, etc). RadioMan had a surprise surgery, which meant a month of recuperation for him (and us, as his caretakers...bebe kind of liked that job. For a while, lol.). 

This fall, I'd like a little of that relaxation to come in to play. A vacation probably won't happen because of RadioMan's sports schedule, but I'd like just a little time to decompress. Maybe read a few more books. Definitely write more. I'd love to hear about either of the projects I've sent out into the big world and maybe have some good-publishing-news to share with y'all soon. And that pretty much catches you up with me ... but I'm wondering, what are you up to as the summer winds down in to fall? Any big plans coming up? New books you're writing - or a great book you've read?