12 December 2013

A Wicked Waltz now available!

The second novella of my Save The Last Dance series is now available from Champagne Books.
A Wicked Waltz picks up  the story of Maggie Pearce and John Harrison several months after they shared A Dangerous Dance. Fate, destiny, or some cosmic force has conspired to throw them together once more, this time on perilous turf: Maggie's hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.


This is a story of friends conspiring to give destiny a helping hand in connecting two people who obviously should be together. The secondary characters in this novella were a blast to write. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

And don't forget how book are gifts that keep giving with every turn of the page. All of my books are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and if you live in Tucson, AZ through Mostly Books Bookstore at Wilmot & Speedway.

Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate!

09 December 2013

Bad Blogger

I hate being sick, so I don't do it often. Last time I was sick was about three or four years ago. But these past few weeks have cramped my style in a big way. My own fault, I suppose, running myself ragged with the All-Zona Book Fest plus work. I should know better. So over Thanksgiving, when I wanted to have time with my son who was home for four days from college, I instead spent most of the holiday weekend trying to expel a lung by coughing. I'm still coughing at this time but less violently, allowing me to get a few things done at a time. Forgive me for not keeping up with my blog. I promise to compose something far more interesting within the next week.
Until then, faithful readers, stay healthy, get good rest, and take your vitamins.

14 November 2013

Guest Post--Fall Cleaning by BJ KURTZ

The Curse of Atlantis, Book One by B.J. Kurtz

Welcome BJ Kurtz, a wonderful fantasy/paranormal author and fellow Southern Arizonan. Her first novel, The Curse of Atlantis, spins a tale of ancient evil, curses, and surprising alliances. I haven't read The Lord of Nightmares  yet, but hope to rectify that soon. B.J. concocts a credible fantasy world in the realm of Atlantis with characters that grab your attention. You can meet B.J. and purchase an autographed book on Sunday, November 17th at The All-Zona Book Fest...

I just wanted to start by thanking Jude for this opportunity to invade her blog space for a moment. I hope I do it justice.

Most people do spring cleaning. I, on the other hand, live a hectic fall/winter so am way too tired in the spring to do massive cleaning. Therefore, I do my cleaning in the fall. In fact, I have a list built on a tab hanging on my refrigerator that proclaims what needs to be finished. These typically consist of washing windows, cleaning sheds, throwing out piles that have accumulated, etc.

While I am cleaning, I often find writer’s magazines that have piled. Most of them I have not touched. It seems silly when I stare at the pile. I tell myself I “will get to it when I have the time.” Most know this time is mythical and will never materialize. It’s kind of like the unicorn; it would be great to actually see in person, but won’t happen. This phrase is the kiss of death to any writer trying to “find the time” to write. Most will proclaim you have to make time otherwise it won’t get done.

The magazines have great articles by people in the business—but that’s not why I subscribed to them. Somewhere in my writing career, someone told me I needed to: stay in connection with what is happening in the writing world, know what topics gets your readership talking, will help hone your craft. There are probably countless other phrases that have driven me to purchasing the magazines. The result is a nice variety of magazines from Writer’s Digest to Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine (that actually looks like a small paperback book). They are routinely delivered and set aside in a designated spot so I can read during that mythical free time.
I think I have finally given up the hope of reading magazines for my “craft.” This isn’t to say some may not find them useful. But, for me, I get my source of inspiration from other sources. I love to read writing books. My favorite series is the Elements of Fiction by Writer’s Digest. This is a set of valuable books by successful writers on a focused topic. And, to answer the question of knowing what interests my readership…well, I write fantasy so I should be watching fantasy shows and reading fantasy books. That seems a little too simple to be the answer, I know.
So, I’m tossing the magazine pile and freeing the burden…until someone else tells me another “need to” justification that will lead me back to a subscription. Happy fall cleaning everyone!

BJ Kurtz

03 November 2013


Please welcome ELIZABETH FOUNTAIN, an author whose sense of sci-fi humor is a real treat:

In my town, October brought a stretch of perfect autumn weather: long sunny afternoons, cool crisp nights. The leaves turned gorgeous shades of red, gold, and auburn, and covered walkways with crispy piles. Perfect weather for long walks to stretch muscles stiff from sitting in front of a computer all day. Except for one thing.

The gnats. Starting about two hours before sundown, blue gnat swarms built under trees, over shrubs, along sidewalks. How do I know the gnats were blue? Because after a walk, I'd shake dozens of them off my sweater, hair, scarf, anything they could cling to. Breathing, talking - anything that required an open mouth – became downright unwise.

It started me thinking about the blue gnat swarms that can attack during the writing process - or any creative work. You know how it is: you're cruising along writing your thousand words a day, loving your work, basking in it like our fall sunshine, then BAM! You're swatting and snorting out gnats of fear, insecurity, envy, procrastination, and did I mention fear?

So you can close the door on that beautiful day to hide from the gnats, or you can figure out ways to keep them at bay until they naturally subside again. I've discovered a few tricks that serve as gnat netting. This is one of them: reflecting on the creative process, sharing my thoughts with others. Reading my favorite authors is another; losing myself in a great story, drinking in the inspiration in provides.

National Novel Writing Month, which I'm participating in for the fourth time this November, is the equivalent of plunging unprotected into the gnat swarms: fifty thousand words in thirty days, damn the gnats, full speed ahead! Sure, you've got to shake hordes of them out of your prose come December first, but it's awfully fun while you're at it.

Whatever you do to keep the gnats at bay, or to storm your way through them, just don't let them prevent you from venturing into the sunshine and beautiful colors of your own creative process. Come cooler weather, they'll go away on their own, you'll have good work to show for your perseverance, and you’ll be ready to face the random ice patches of winter.

An-Aliens-Guide-World-Domination by Elizabeth Fountain

Author bio:
Elizabeth Fountain left a demanding job as a university administrator in Seattle to move to the small town of Ellensburg, Washington, and pursue her dream of writing novels.  Her first book, An Alien’s Guide to World Domination, was released by BURST Books in 2013; and You, Jane, her second novel, will be published in 2014. On her breaks from writing, Liz teaches university courses, gives workshops on writing, spends time with family and friends, and takes long walks in the diabolical Kittitas Valley wind. Her quirkily humorous view of humanity is well-suited to tales of aliens and angels, love and death, friendship and dogs.

Web site:

Facebook page:

Buy links:

An Alien’s Guide to World Domination on Amazon and on BURST Books, and most e-book retailers

28 October 2013

The Art--and Courtesy--of Reviews

Reviews are a double-edged sword for any artist.  As the saying goes, everyone's a critic. Readers  are encouraged to talk about what they've read on Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble--and rightly so. It's a handy thing when you're deciding whether to buy a book to see what others thought. Authors definitely love the glowing ones and abhor the dismal, true. But an ugly trend appears to be gaining ground in the book reviewing environment--other authors who delight in tearing a book to shreds. I call it Writers Who Rip.

I'm not sure why these people feel the need to exude such negativity in public. It's quite fair to say you did not like a book and give one or two reasons why. It's quite another thing altogether to use your Creative Writing 101 handbook and berate every adverb, character flaw, or locale description.

One possibility these writers may compose such nastiness is the "do unto others" principle: at one time, another writer ripped their work apart so they feel the need to do the same to someone else. We see that in history all the time. Cruelty begets cruelty until someone makes a concerted effort not to respond in kind.

I am not saying every review should be glowing five-stars. But one can state what they felt was a disappointment and move on as opposed to yammering about how terrible that character was or how the plot line was juvenile.

Which brings me to Spoilers. There is nothing more irritating than someone who spills the beans, whether it's the end of The Sixth Sense or listing everyone who dies in the Harry Potter books. What in the world makes it acceptable to reveal the "A-ha!" moment? Is it a raging need to feel superior? Or is it envy that someone else came up with a real shocker that you didn't see coming? If you're writing a review and feel the need to add "Spoiler Alert"--don't. Let me express it another way: just because you can does not mean you should.

Toastmasters and other speaking groups encourage critiques of each other a la the "Oreo Method": start with a positive, say what you found objectionable or less than perfect, and end with a final positive observation. It's something every writer who composes a review should keep in mind, whether critiquing a book, film, or artwork.

Fellow scribes, when reviewing another person's expression of creativity remember this: It is every bit as dear to them as yours is to you. Be fair but be kind.

14 October 2013

What to Do When Congress Screws Your Plans

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!
  Aye, Bobbie Burns, ye had the wisdom o' the ages. Congress, aka the Gang o' Spoiled Brats and Bullies shut down the government three days before my friends from Philadelphia and Southampton, England were to arrive. They closed all the national parks, including the Grand Canyon. Our prepaid reservations for two nights in Williams, the steam locomotive into the
The Little Colorado River Gorge on the Navajo Reservation
park, and our park admission passes were rendered useless. How, you may ask, can they "close" a canyon that is 300 miles long?  Well, the government shutdown closed all of the access roads, shutting out anyone unable to hike long distances in rugged terrain. One could go through the Havasupai or Navajo reservations but the first costs and arm and a leg while the second requires some navigational skills and physical endurance. Not feasible for three fifty-year-old-and-then-some (but who's counting?) crazy ladies.

So what to do? Well, considering Northern Arizona's economy heavily depends on tourist dollars, we decided to go to Flagstaff instead and wing it from there. The result? We had a blast. We saw the Painted Desert and the Little Colorado River Gorge and purchased some lovely Navajo jewelry directly from the artists. Then we returned to Flagstaff and drove up Snowbowl to the ski lift, only to arrive a little late for their last run of the day. The views were incredible, and sharing the beauty of my state with great friends was pure joy.
Aspens changing color in Flagstaff
Sunday, we headed home to Tucson through Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, and the mining town of Jerome where we shared a tasty meal with more dear friends. I won't bore you with all the "what I did on my Arizona vacation" details but suffice it to say we thumbed our noses at Congress and had a damned good time.

Though the best-laid plans often go awry, improvising often enhances the experience. Instead of lamenting what could have been, seize the chance to try something else. 

As another great Robert-poet (Frost) once said, And that has made all the difference.

Home again for another spectacular Tucson sunset...

17 September 2013

Let's Dance!

Available now at Amazon

 Last night was the first show of the new season for "Dancing With the Stars" in the US. I'm not sure I'll be watching it much this fall despite the inclusion of some talented celebrities. I wasn't impressed with the new set or the new format, and to be honest, the involvement of that person from The Jersey Shore absolutely puts me off. But I like the girl from "Glee" dancing with Derek Hough as well as the obligatory Disney featured teen. He was amazing.

Dance is a fabulous way of storytelling, from ballet to hip hop to ballroom. I'm amazed at the way a flick of the hand or the extension of a leg can convey emotion. That's one of the reasons I started my new Save the Last Dance series from Champagne Books. The other is that my good friend in Australia began taking competition ballroom lessons and shared her experiences with me. (Thanks, Wombat!)

The first novella in the series is A Dangerous Dance.  Part of it was inspired by the experience I had attending the New York premiere of King Arthur back in 2004--the set-up process, the photographers, security, crowd...everything was a fascinating circus. Then the celebrities showed up and the craziness cranked up ten notches.

But part of this story of two people who meet and realize they have a magical connection but bad choices have trapped them in unhappy relationships was also inspired by the lyrics of David Bowie's song, "Let's Dance" from the 1980s.
Let's dance Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let's dance to the song they're playin' on the radio
If you say run, I'll run with you
If you say hide, we'll hide
Because my love for you
Would break my heart in two
If you should fall  Into my arms
And tremble like a flower

Let's dance for fear your grace should fall
Let's dance for fear tonight is all
 [My husband and I used to kid around and sing, "Put on your red shoes and eat prime rib," ha ha]
  The song has now been remixed to even more incredible awesomeness for a Kia commercial:

                                Published on Jun 9, 2013  humanACOUSTICS™ | united by music / You Tube 
A couple could most definitely do one hell of a passionate paso doblĂ© to this version. 
Hear that DWTS? But please, oh please, don't give it to that undeserving mess from The Jersey Shore.

08 September 2013

It's Always Something...

Photo courtesy of Daylight's Dauphin blog: http://dignandaylightdauphin.blogspot.com/
Gilda Radner. Hard to believe she's been gone long enough for an entire generation not to know who she was. "It just goes to show ya, it's always something," was her character Rosanne Rosannadanna's signature line."If it's not one thing, it's another."

And it's true. There's always something else to contend with, to do, to learn. It's what keeps us alive and cognizant as humans, this constant stimulation to develop new skills.

Especially for writers. Oh. Mah. Gawd. There are fluctuations in punctuation rules. Publishers each have their own formatting preferences. (Do any still take paper manuscript submissions?) My own personal bugaboo: characters overusing certain gestures. How can I convey a head-shaking moment without having them shake their head so much? The little nuances of facial expressions must be described in many different ways.

Then there's the marketing aspect every published author must face. How can I get more people to read my stuff? I'm on Goodreads--and need to update my page. Amazon--I need to update my page with every new release. My website must constantly be updated. Blog posts--well, you've seen how sporadic I am about those. Social media that seemingly changes with every tick of the clock. Keeping up is exhausting--but it's good for brain stimulation.

I taught myself some HTML code way back in the early days. It has come in handy many times. I also played around with photo manipulation and learning to format images for bookmarks, postcards, and business cards. One should also create Q-R codes (Quick Response) for smart phones to zip someone right to your Amazon page or website. Now I'll conquer learning how to use The Square to accept credit card payments at signing events. Once I learn how to use my tablet, of course.

There is no limit to how much we can learn because there is no limit of how much there is to learn. What's truly in short supply is time.

 It just goes to show ya...

26 August 2013

Ick, Aack, Heart Attack...

Damn, it's the end of the month already and I haven't posted since the first? What an inconsistent blogger... I have some good excuses.

Tessie Tarantula
ICK. I hate August. Always. No matter where you are in the US, August is hot, sticky, smelly, muggy, stormy, and full of bugs. The good thing about living in the desert is that most of our bugs crawl and don't fly--except in August. Little gnats that fly into your face or up your nose are not my favorite creations on the planet. Don't even get me started on mosquitoes, nasty biting bastards. When we finally got rain at our house last week, a scorpion and centipede decided it was time to come in. Fatal mistake. The rain also forces tarantulas like Tessie here to leave their burrows to avoid drowning. While they're out and about, they pick out a male, do the procreative thing, then kill him and eat him.  No wonder Arachne is revered by many matriarchal societies...

New paint, same cat.
AACK.  My men leave for a week and what do I decide to do? Relax with spa days? Catch up on the stack of books I've been hoping to read? Naw, not me. I decide to paint nearly the entire interior of my house. From cleaning, taping, caulking, and painting to cleaning up and
rearranging the wall art, it took five of the seven days they were gone. All this on top of the normal work of the week. (I still haven't finished hanging pictures.)

HEART ATTACK. I have a short story and  a novella coming out on September 2nd. I need to get the Amazon links to change my marketing focus with Bookbuzzr, so that's going to wait. I have two guest blog posts coming up:  Summer Cover Up on Love Romances & More  on August 28th and Savvy Authors Learning Center on August 31st . Nothing like looking at a contract now and then to realize you also have a manuscript deadline coming up on September 1. So I'm madly working in the rewrite/strengthening of A Torrid Tango, #3 in the Save the Last Dance series of novellas of which September's release --A Dangerous Dance -- is book #1.

The short story is the re-release of "Cymru Am Byth--Wales Forever" in Shared Whispers, now published by Champagne Books.

Oh, and on top of all that, the boy is returning for his senior year of college to San Diego, driving the family sedan. Talk about heart attack...

One a mom, always a worrying mom.

01 August 2013


"Today is the first day of a new month--RABBIT, RABBIT, RABBIT!"

Have you ever heard this expression? I was in college the first time I did.
I knew it was a superstition but had no idea how it got started. That's one of the fun things and/or curses of being a person who loves words. You can't just hear someone use an odd expression without wanting to figure out its origins. 

Well, according to Ted Nesbitt, this idiom came from England where rabbits and hares were considered bad luck. Which in itself most likely came from the very real situation of when a rabbit's quick scurry from the side of a lane would spook a horse and throw its rider, which was not a good way to start your day, especially in the days before antibiotics. Often a fall from a horse could be fatal and therefore one could consider it rather unlucky.

On the first morning of each month, one was supposed to say, "Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" to ensure good luck for the entire month. Some deviations are more precise, such as to say "White rabbit" three times in the morning and "Black rabbit" at night. One version is to simply use the plural, "White rabbits" to get it over with more efficiently.  There is also the tradition in some families to greet a birthday boy or girl with "White Rabbit" to wish them a wonderful birthday month.

So "White Rabbits" to all today to save my tongue from getting twisted into convoluted knots trying to say it three times quickly. May this month be all good!

 Both images in this post are from: http://www.arthursclipart.org/rabbits/hares    

22 July 2013

Dog Days?

Ah, we're deep into "The Dog Days of Summer."
Ever wonder about that phrase? It is attributed to Roman astronomers who believed that the Dog Star, Sirius (yes, that's where J.K. Rowling got the name for Sirius Black), added to the sun's heat to make these summer days more uncomfortable. During those ancient days, Sirius rose and set with the sun. Now the passage of time and movement of the universe has shifted our view of the constellations, so Sirius rises and sets on a little different time schedule, but we still call the latter half of July and first part of August "The Dog Days." In the Northern Hemisphere these tend to be the most uncomfortable weeks of the season with high heat and higher humidity. Everyone is cranky and whiny. Tempers flare from the tiniest sparks. Thunderstorms boom and put on fantastic lightning displays.

Growing up, we had a big old mutt that was terrified of loud noises. Originally meant to be a hunting companion that ran home at the first gunshot, this great big animal would tremble and hide under tables when thunder rumbled in the distance. His name was Skeeter and he was generally considered an ugly canine. Half collie and half German short-haired pointer, he had a huge head and a tiny bob of a tail. He was fearless when strangers came to the door or when wild critters visited in the night. But summer storms sent him into a panic, poor thing.

Me, I love thunderstorms. I love watching the lightning, seeing what patterns the ripple through those heavy black skies. I'm still waiting for a nice thunderstorm at my house this summer. They've skipped over, downing power lines and flooding washes everywhere else in Tucson but here. One could say the storms have been "dogging it" around my place during these dog days, but that would be a different bone to pick.


12 July 2013

The Vital Importance of Education

 This is taken from today's Huffington Post. Click on the link to watch the video of this courageous and intelligent young woman speaking at the United Nations today:


The Huffington Post  |  By Posted:   |  Updated: 07/12/2013 11:54 am EDT 
malala yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai spent her 16th birthday demanding compulsory education for young people worldwide.

In a speech Friday at the UN in New York, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot in the head in October 2012 for speaking out about her right to education, talked about how she represents some 57 million children around the world are not going to school.
The UN declared her birthday as "Malala Day." Introduced by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Malala spoke out about terrorism, poverty and a united front calling for education.
"'Malala Day' is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."
See the 10 most inspiring quotes from her speech below.
"We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced."
"One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first."
"This is what my soul is telling me: Be peaceful and love everyone."
"There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights, but this time we will do it by ourselves."
"So, today we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity."
"Let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness."
"We realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The extremists are afraid of books and pens."
malala yousafzai
"We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back."
"[Extremists] are afraid of women, change and equality."
"Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights."

Please, support your local educators. Children are eager and willing to learn, if only we give them the opportunities and tools. 

01 July 2013

Learning From Teaching

Whenever I'm asked to speak to a group or participate in a conference or seminar, I try to seize the opportunity. Perhaps you've heard the old adage, "By their pupils, the teacher is taught." It's true. You learn from sharing knowledge with others, especially beginners.

I had the wonderful chance to help young writers this past weekend through an endeavor with Gecko Gals Ink, our five-author Tucson group. We offered Word Magic For Teens, a short (two-hour) writing workshop. Our students were between twelve and fifteen, most in seventh grade heading into eighth. Though we had a small group, I was quite impressed with all of them.

One of the exercises we asked them to do was to choose two photos, then develop character traits. We gave them five questions to complete for each photo:
1) What is the character's name?
2) Where are they from?
3) What do they do?
4) What do they want from life?
5) What are they most afraid of?

The results were amazing. We had characters emerge from Nepal, Egypt, Washington State, Oregon, the Philippines, Mexico, Germany, Argentina, and Ghana. Fears ranged from being scared of monkeys and spiders to fear of starvation to getting caught for committing murder. Enthusiasm filled the room with the scratching of ink or pencil on paper. None of them hesitated, but they pondered and wrote intently for the entire allotted time. We talked about how their characters might meet, what they might say to one another, how their fears might affect their actions.

What did I learn? I learned to think from another perspective. Some of these children are from refugee families; their fears are completely different from the average American kid. I learned to think about reference points they would understand and in doing so, clarify the objective in more simple and direct terms. That helps me simplify my own thinking. We get so cluttered with details sometimes that our characters loose focus.

I'm going to use these questions myself and see how well they assist in defining the characters in my next project. And I can't wait to meet with these kids again and see how far they took their writing.


16 June 2013

Happy Father's Day

The marketing of Father's Day always amuses me. Take a look at the various themes in the greeting card rack: golf, barbeque, handyman, ties, television watching/hogging the remote, drinking beer, and even farting.

Why aren't there any with Dad reading a book? I know many men who love to read. Personally, I think the love of literature is a major asset for any parent. Is it too urbane for Madison Avenue's ideal father? From the range of selection now, you'd think every man out there is nearly a Neanderthal.

My dad in his office at work with my son in 1994.  Dad died three years later.

My dad read a lot, though I'm hard pressed at the moment to recall a memory of him just sitting with a book. Newspapers and magazines were his favorites. I don't think he had time or patience to commit to a full book on a regular basis. He ran his own business and was very active in community organizations like Rotary, Masons, Lions Club, and Shriners. He liked to go to Canada to fish every Memorial Day, and for years he dragged the entire family to the same fishing camp again at the end of July for the "family vacation" though none of us never had a vote about the destination. He didn't play golf, but he wore a tie six days a week (except in Canada). Being a handyman was a necessary chore, not a passion, and most times when he "fixed" things, a plethora of pieces-parts appeared and was deemed "extra stuff." Sometimes whatever he was

working on still functioned, but how well was another matter. Personally, I think his tinkering was all a grand plan to necessitate buying new gadgets/machinery. Seemed to work out real well for him.

A boy and his dad, 2010
My husband is somewhat similar. He's not handy with tools but he's great with accounting. He doesn't read books but peruses online newspapers and magazines daily. His passion is baseball, and many hours of our boy's growing years were spent playing The Game with his father. I know both of them treasure that time together, as exhilarating and yet frustrating as it could be. My husband didn't have much one-on-one time with his dad, so he made sure that was one family tradition he did not continue. He has a wonderful relationship he treasures with our son, who is rapidly approaching the age of leaving home to establish his own life, his own family. [Not too soon on the family part of that, please!]

So here's to the Dads out there: Have a grand day, celebrate the bonds you have with your children and if you love to read, especially enjoy some time alone with a good book. You deserve it.


31 May 2013

Changing Tides in the Book World

Good news on the book front--for readers and writers. Book sales are growing in all formats.  There are more independent bookstores opening, more independent authors publishing, and more online venues to buy books. As Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes in her blog, Traditional publishers forgot their market targets really were READERS, not big bookstores:

"In the early 2000s, I had books rejected by big publishers with these comments. We love it, but we know we can’t sell this title to Walmart. We love it, but we checked with the buyer for Borders, and he doesn’t think the book will sell so we must decline. I’m not the only writer who experienced such things. When your business model is based on selling to ten or twenty people who act as the only gateway to millions of consumers, then those ten or twenty people wield a disproportionate amount of power."
Read the entire post. It's quite interesting. 

And while you're at it, tell a friend about my books. They're great summer reads! (wink wink, nudge, nudge)

24 May 2013

Seven Dress Sizes

 It's out now and available for Kindle AND as a paperback--

What is the worth of a woman? What is beauty? Depending on culture, commercialism, family, or our peers, men and woman have allowed society to dictate the worth of a woman based on nothing more than the outer shell of her existence.
There is no perfect number. No measurement or shape is safe under the judgmental eyes of the world.

No eyes can judge a woman as harshly as her own.

Seven Dress Sizes takes you into the lives of seven different struggles of modern females in a full scope of shapes and sizes, struggling to find the key unlocking self worth, acceptance of beauty and natural confidence.

I am thrilled to be involved with this project along with six other wonderful authors:
Dawn Kirby, Michelle Horst, A.T. Russell, Tina Carreiro, Jennifer Welborn, and La-Tessa Montgomery.
 So much of our lives is governed by how we see ourselves. Must we all fit into the same pattern--and what is "ideal" anyway? This book shares seven tales of what it's like to be too skinny, too fat, and everything in between on the journey of learning to love the essence of one's own self, despite the mirror.

My story is called "The Well-Rounded Woman"--the story of Dian Monroe, a so-called "fat girl" growing up and getting larger despite every diet she's ever tried. No one notices her wit and intelligence as she tries to blend into--no, actually become--the background. One chance is all she wants...but will she ever get it?

 You can read more about all the authors on Jennifer Welborn's lovely blog.

18 May 2013

Researching Away From Home

Research is fun for me. i love digging into the past. Oh, I know a lot of information can be found on the Internet and yes, sometimes I take advantage of that. But in order to transport my readers to a place, I need to be there. Walking the streets, smelling the aromas, seeing how the light plays on water and trees...you can't get the feel of a place from the Internet.

Last week, I trudged the streets of Boston. My intention was to stop in at the Massachusetts Historical Society on Boyleston Street. We passed by it on the walk back to our hotel from a Red Sox Game at Fenway Park. I was sure I could get there by opening time the next morning, which was Saturday--and our last day in the city. Our plane was scheduled to take off that afternoon.

It would have helped if I could remember left from right or orient east from west. Stepping out the front door of the Westin Hotel, I turned right, confident that if I simply strode along Boyleston I'd see the Historical Society's front door to my left in a matter of minutes.

An hour (and three miles) later, I paused at the Boston Harbor waterfront, rather confused that Boyleston had morphed into Essex Street and I hadn't seen any indication of nearing Fenway's Green Monster. D'oh. Shoulda turned left, not right. I had now lost an hour of precious time, it would take me another hour to walk back to my starting point, plus another fifteen to twenty to get where I wanted to be. Damn. I had to find the nearest "T" (Boston's subway) station and head back to Copley Square.

Unfortunately, it was the weekend and the next train was a twelve minute wait at Tufts Medical Center. By the time it arrived and I connected to the Green Line back to Copley, I'd blown my chance to peruse newspapers of the 1770s or look up little local tidbits. I was bummed.

But I still had lots of good information I'd gathered from the previous two days. Walking along the fens of Fenway, the expanse of Boston Common, and going below decks of the ships at the Tea Party Museum gave me delicious details of Boston's environs during the Revolution. 

If you have the opportunity to visit Boston, I highly, strongly, fervently recommend the Boston Tea Party Museum. It's a guided and interactive tour with actors portraying luminaries such as Samuel Adams (below) and visitors are encouraged--nay, pressed--to join in the fun by being assigned roles.

And it's quite technologically current. Portraits of King George III and Mr. Adams speak and move much like the portraits in the Harry Potter films. They even have one of the two surviving original tea chests thrown overboard by the enraged citizens that April night, found the next morning by a young man and passed down through the generations of his family with the documentation as "a box worth keeping."

If I get the chance to go back, I will in a heartbeat. And this time, I might get the directions right.


25 April 2013


I decided against the Kindle HD. Mainly because I don't want to be locked into reading documents only available for Kindle. Plus the reviews I read indicated Amazon's Silk browser is not equipped to use Adobe Flash, which many websites incorporate. Not that I mean to do a lot of web browsing on a tablet but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis. No, I just don't want to have to hassle with upgrading a tablet to do basic things when I can get one that already does what I want.

I've decided to get a Samsung Galaxy 2 when my best friend takes me with her to Costco this weekend. Yes, it's smaller than the Kindle HD 8.9 but only by 1.9 inches. Kindle's big marketing push was all about how wonderful movies and games are on its bigger screen. I don't want to watch movies on a tablet, I want to read ebooks and stay in touch with email and social media while I'm traveling. If I can play a game or two, okay, but that's not the center of my universe. I'm so far out of the gaming world, my last big favorite was Tetris on a Gameboy. I loved Tetris. It would be best if this Samsung doesn't have it so I don't waste valuable reading and possibly writing time trying to fit long rectangles into square pegs in time with funky Russian folk tunes. Damn, that used to be so much fun... I have so many ebooks I want to read and review, I can't afford to play games.

Anyway, I'll let you know how it all turns out after my big East Coast Sojourn. Ciao, baby, see you on the Coast!


09 April 2013

The Jump

I will be making The Jump to Kindle soon. I should order one by the end of this week for my upcoming trip to the East Coast. Yes, I'm late to the party. Everyone already has one, or a Nook or a Kobo, or some other reader.

Not that I haven't been into or championed ebooks. On the contrary, I was learning to format for ebook publication way back in 2004--when you had to know HTML code to format a different version for every type of reader. (What a pain in the patootie that was!) But I read ebooks on my PC or laptop, so I didn't see a burning need to acquire the portable device.

But now I've seen the Kindle Fire in action and realize it can allow me the access I'd had with my laptop without the bulk and weight. Plus I can load that puppy with all the cool ebooks my fellow authors have written to read on the plane and/or train--without wearing glasses if I elect not to. The technology has evolved greatly and the price has decreased as most "toys" of the techno nature tend to do. Heavens, I remember when a VCR cost $700...

I'm looking forward to exploring this new gadget's capabilities. I may even figure out how to deal with apps and play Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. I used to love playing Tetris on the kid's Gameboy...do those still exist? 

Having this portable Kindle will let me finally, FINALLY read all the books I've stashed on this PC. I can hardly wait.

Wish me luck!


28 March 2013

Psychology, Slot Machines, and Writing

I spent last weekend in Laughlin, Nevada. This is a small town with Vegas-envy situated across  the Colorado River from Bullhead City, Arizona. Las Vegas is where the Young, Sexy, Rich, and Hot go; the Old, Infirm, and Less-Affluent hang in Laughlin.  And yes, I know the group in which I fit.

Casinos in general aren't my cuppa. I don't have any moral objections to gambling, per se; in my opinion, adults are free to choose their actions and consequences. I simply don't like handing money over without getting a guaranteed tangible return. No casino will ever put me on a "whale" comp list, or a black list for that matter. (For those of you who may not know, a "whale" is a person who gambles exorbitantly obscene amounts of money and casinos are thrilled to have them lose those amounts at their places, so they "comp" their stay-- everything is provided free for such folks, aka "comped", meaning complementary. The "Black List" holds all the names of people caught or suspected of cheating at a casino, and it's usually shared with every gambling establishment in town. Not being mathematically inclined, counting cards or calculating statistical probabilities to cheat ain't never gonna happen in this brain, so they have nothing to fear when I walk through the doors.)

What I found fascinating is the complexity of gambling psychology. A few decades ago, casinos were divided fairly evenly: maybe 30% slot machines, 30% table games (blackjack/twenty-one, roulette, and craps), 20% higher staked table games (bacarrat and poker rooms), 10% Keno (like bingo) and maybe 10% in a small sports book where people could watch and wager on horse racing, greyhound racing, and professional sports. Then gambling on college sports became legal in Nevada (and only  in Nevada to this day, though New Jersey is making a bid in their legislature), exploding into a huge money-making venture and immediately permeating American culture. Native American reservations legalized gambling on their lands and suddenly everyone was within driving distance of a casino. No need to take a vacation to Las Vegas; Grammy and Gramps could drive to the Rez, gamble a few hours, eat at the buffet, and be home by nine.

And that has changed the casinos in Laughlin. Now the percentages have skewed to 60% slot machines, 20% table games, and 20% sports book. Keno is gone and the separate poker / bacarrat rooms are gone, incorporated as individual tables amid the blackjack, roulette, and craps section.

Slot machines have morphed drampatically as well. There are machines for every interest: Maltese dogs, TV shows, Native Spirits, movie stars (yes, i saw a John Wayne machine), and cats. Lots of cats. I played "Miss Kitty", which is the name of my mother-in-law's cat, and "Kitty Glitter" because it had an orange tabby that looked like my own Fritzgerald the Bastard Cat of Tombstone. I practice a philosophy called "Hit and Run": as soon as I win anything, I cash out and leave. I may not win much, but I certainly don't lose the farm.

All these different interests embodied as slot machines are the perfect example of using psychology marketing. You learn what make people like, what they enjoy, what hooks their curiousity and then blam! You entice them to push buttons with pretty pictures, flashing lights, and pleasant/familiar/happy sounds from their fave TV shows or personalities.

This is what writers need to consider. Think about how many slot machines focus on animals/pets. That's why the series involving a mystery-solving cat is a huge seller. Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, and Misty of Chigoteague are but a few horse-centered stories. I'm not saying we all need to write animal stories but we all need to seriously ponder who is the target audience of what we write before we get started. Narrow your focus to that audience and you'll develop a following of readers who flock to your books like cat lovers in Laughlin line up to feed "Miss Kitty" some five dollar bills.

Some of the other machines I saw were a Michael Jackson machine featured prominently in the central layout of the casino, "The Hangvoer" of movie blockbuster fame, TV shows  such as Hee Haw, The Munsters, Wheel of Fortune, Charlie's Angels, and I Dream of Jeannie. I wonder how much casinos pay out in licensing fees; obviously it is nowhere near as much as they take in from folks who hope to win big but usually are lucky to break even.

Next blog I'll share finding inspiration in playing tourist away from the casino...


25 February 2013

Beauty Inspires

Beauty around us can inspire wonderful stories. Tucson had a very rare and freakish winter storm last week that deposited snow in the desert. We've had snow now and then but usually it melts in an hour and that's it. Not this time. Two inches fell in the morning, lasted till early afternoon, then at 4:30 that afternoon, huge fat flakes began again.

That's not a snowball, it's one flake falling by a saguaro...
Writers' biggest challenge is how to describe an event or condition in a way that transports the reader into that exact moment. When the snow began that afternoon, fluffs drifted down from a grey-white sky individually, like feathers dropped by a dove as she preens her wing. The flakes grew larger and heavier, soon filling the air in an all-out earthbound attack, besieging  everything in their path. The soft hiss of crystal water particles falling through motionless air to land upon their mates muted every sound as they bound together to smother every tree, cactus, and bush in white frigidity.

There was no visible sunset that evening. Grey day turned to darkness without a hint of color. Yet the snow seemed oddly iridescent without the sun, refracting grey into tiny nuances of blue.

A night-blooming cereus and barrel  cactis mantled in snow. Pricky Pear in the background...
Odd how the snow actually kept the plants from frost damage like the sheets we would have used to cover them. No hard frost bit their arms or burned delicate leaves. The snow lingered through the night into the next morning, laying heavy on palm fronds and willow branches until the sun finally banished the last marauding clouds, welcomed with open arms by saguaro and humans alike.

28 January 2013

Reading Aloud

 Do you read your work out loud? Whether to a trusted friend or to yourself? Reading aloud is one of the most valuable tools anyone ever suggested to use as a writer. Not only does vocalizing your word choices allow you to catch those pesky cut and paste errors of omitted letters or typographical oopsies, it sheds a different light onto your composition. To hear the language combination brings a scene alive in a way that simply scanning words on a page visually misses. Non-fiction author and literary professor Verlyn Klinkenborg explained some of the process in an Op-Ed piece in the The New York Times:
 Reading aloud recaptures the physicality of words. To read with your lungs and diaphragm, with your tongue and lips, is very different than reading with your eyes alone. The language becomes a part of the body, which is why there is always a curious tenderness, almost an erotic quality, in those 18th- and 19th-century literary scenes where a book is being read aloud in mixed company. The words are not mere words. They are the breath and mind, perhaps even the soul, of the person who is reading.       

This past weekend I was was fortunate to be involved in a Readers' Theater presentation with Gecko Gals Ink, and one of the contributing playwrights commented that the play she co-wrote with my friend Ashleen O'Gaea  "seems funnier read aloud onstage than on paper."  She sounded wonderfully surprised by this observation. "Suddenly, Without Warning" is a funny one-act farce about actors at the mercy of the narrator of a play that veers from space adventure to Western to science fiction quite suddenly and without warning. Cast the roles with actors who love to ham it up and it was very entertaining.

I encourage you to read aloud - and as often as possible. I loved reading aloud to my son when he was small, and I enjoy reading my works in progress with one of my closest friends. It gives me a chance to try and experience the story from a different perspective and see if the emotions I hoped to convey shine through the language I've chosen. I enjoyed doing readings at signings, so I'm looking forward to March 3, 2013 when I'll be reading from my works at the The Los Angeles St. David's Day Festival - National Day of Wales at  Barnsdall Art Park.
Read with more than your eyes and fully experience the joy of storytelling, whether the book is of your own creation of not. It will enrich your experience and strengthen both your joy of reading and your writing.


17 January 2013

Writers and Marketing

I love talking with other writers. There is always something new to learn. One universal bane of those who are published is marketing. It never seems to end. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, blog tours, websites, group chats...it can be overwhelming at times.

What free time I have I would love to spend writing, absorbed in my little cocoon of creation. But, sad to say, reality constantly demands my presence, whether to participate in my real job to put food on the table or to try and garner attention to my books. So I try to choose marketing techniques that 1) I am comfortable with and 2) don't take hours and hours of time.

My blog tends to suffer from my time constraints, and for that I apologize. I do try to post at least every two weeks if I can't get to it weekly. And my goal this year is to share reviews of books I've read and interviews with authors I've met (either personally or in cyberspace) so those of you who also write may glean information from more than just my experience.

I will say that hard-sell, constant bleating on Twitter or Facebook immediately turns me off. I don't know how many other folks feel that way, but it's not something I care for and, therefore, try not to do. I'm sure it's an effective way to market or people wouldn't keep doing it, but it's not my cuppa tea.

What does work for me are speaking appearances, signings, keeping up with Facebook/Twitter, and talking with other authors. I sell more books in person than online, but I hope to work on that this year as well. 

So watch this space for upcoming events, reviews, and interviews. I plan to include books and people you find interesting, perhaps provocative, and definitely informative!

Happy January!

01 January 2013

Starting the New Year

Oh my goodness, how the time has flown! Happy 2013, my friends!

Didn't you think we'd be living like The Jetsons by now? Flying cars and houses way up in the sky? Heck, I thought we'd be off the planet's surface by 1999. But here we are, still happily held by gravity to an incredibly resilient Mother Earth.

The start of a New Year often motivates people to make Resolutions. I don't. I try not to make promises I can't keep and to me, a resolution is a promise. I will, however, Aim To Accomplish Some Things:

1) I solemnly swear I am up to no good .
For 2013, I aim to misbehave. Translation: I will kick up my heels and LIVE more freely. When the chance comes to run into the rain, I hope to take it. When an opportunity presents itself to act silly and dress up, I aim to seize it with both hands. Life is too short to be so damn serious.

2) I will work hard to maintain my health.
In 2012, I lost 60 pounds. My aim for 2013 is to keep it off and try to whittle off another 10-15 ...slowly. I don't want to be in pain as I grow older. I intend to walk all over Wales, Australia, Alaska, Argentina, Peru, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, Russia, and Spain before I am 70 years old.  (Well not ALL of Russia, just a big chunk.) Research for books in my head needs to include on-the-ground-locale recon, and you can't do that if your knees or hips are screaming. Yoga will be a more consistent part of my routine to keep increasing my ranges of motion. 

3) I will endeavor to learn more about my craft by reading more varied genres.
The process never ends, really. My reading has sadly taken a back seat to marketing and writing, so this year I hope to read more than ever. Even if it's in the bathtub at 2 AM.

4) The turkeys ain't getting me down.
I'm going to take the attitude of, "Meh, it isn't personal." Even if it is, I am going to practice blowing it off instead of blowing a gasket.  I have too many places to visit to be sidelined with a stroke.

So there you are, kids. My Aims To Accomplish for 2013. What are yours?