Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Spirit of Giving

During this season, we sometimes lose our way. Parties, gift buying, family stress, all interfere with the joy of the spirit of the season. Take time for yourself, for quiet reflection. Take a moment during shopping trips to help someone struggling. 

It may surprise you (unless you're a writer) to learn most writers earn little from their writing. So why do we write? Here's an example of the joy that comes simply from knowing something I wrote touched another's life.

During my struggle with breast cancer treatment, I wrote RECIPES FOR RECOVERY and self-published it for an affordable price just so I could help other patients deal with the nutrition challenges of serious illness. I've given away many copies. My profit margin is tiny, but the rewards are great. People buy it to give as get-well gifts, too. One writer friend asked me to send a copy to a friend's friend. Both she and I received thank-yous from the woman, a two time survivor (colon cancer and leukemia). She wrote:

Thank you for the cookbook and for your dedication to inspire cancer patients like me. It is so helpful to have friends who care when my energy is so low.

This is why I wrote RECIPES FOR RECOVERY. This is why I write. I feel blessed to have my writing impact others in a positive way.

Remember this post as you rush through the holidays. There is no joy like the joy that comes from doing for others. Many blessings to you.

Sunday, December 01, 2013


I've tried National Novel Writing Month challenges before, but this is the first year I successfully finished the draft of a book in one month. Even taking off for Thanksgiving (I'm the family cook) didn't deter me. Have any of you writers written a book via the NaNoWriMo challenge? Some famous fiction began life as a NaNoWriMo draft, including WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, a favorite read. 

Now it's December and time to decorate and send cards. And time to take a short break from writing!

Saturday, November 02, 2013


Why you won't hear from me this month.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

It's October!

October is a special month for me. It holds good and sad memories (both my parents died in October). My husband and I moved into our first house in October, and Halloween--my favorite holiday because it brings out my inner child--is in October. Many years we held costume parties at Halloween. Oh, what fun.
Our first Halloween party.
For many, depending on where you live, October marks autumn, with colorful leaf changing and fall festivals, pumpkins and colorful gourds, and football games. I live in Florida, where it's still summer weather, but we do have some fall color. And football is celebrated everywhere and on every level, from high school to professional teams.

My alma mater--UL Cardinals

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, too. While I've always supported the pink movement, I took a more personal interest when I battled the disease in 2010. Now I'm celebrating three and a half years as a breast cancer survivor.

I urge you to celebrate October. Host or attend a tailgate party. Support the local school's fall festival. Donate to one of the breast cancer research causes and wear pink. Schedule your mammogram if you haven't done so. Dress up in a fun costume for Halloween. Bake chocolate cupcakes with orange frosting--or orange cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Happy autumn!

Now I must get back to writing my latest Drake Springs romance, Return to Drake Springs.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I have exciting news. I've changed directions, or rather my writing has. I enjoy romantic suspense and crime dramas, but lately I've yearned for a good romance story without the blood and terror.

It began a few years ago. I wrote two sweet romance novellas for the ROMANCE ON ROUTE 66 anthology. It was fun, and readers gave me encouraging feedback. Then I tried inspirational romance for a Christmas anthology, a short story titled The Christmas Prayer. I like inspirational romance, but I'm more comfortable with the latitude offered by "sweet" romance. The final trigger to my career shift came when Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series aired this summer on the Hallmark Channel. I love it, and loved those books. I want to write those kind of stories.

I already have the town, Drake Springs, Florida, in fictional Foster County. The town is full of interesting characters, some quirky, all endearing. I approached my publisher with the series idea, and she urged me to write, write, write. Apparently readers are hungry for series.

So if you've been to Drake Springs via my romantic suspense novels RECLAIM MY LIFE or REBUILD MY WORLD, or my short story VEILED THREAT, welcome back. Expect to see many more stories. If you haven't read those titles, you don't need to. Each book stands alone, and you'll soon feel right at home in Foster County, Florida.

Now, back to the keyboard . . .

Monday, July 08, 2013

Grow Your Own Herbs

I live in Florida, which means I have a long growing season for my herbs. I have an outdoor herb garden plus a few indoor pots. But growing herbs can be tricky and I've learned a few things the difficult way.

Cilantro with seeds.
First, some herbs have a short growing season. No matter how much care you take, you will lose some plants. Replant or replace plants like cilantro and parsley about every other month. Harvest the seeds off older cilantro plants and save. These are coriander.

Next, some plants need plenty of water while others prefer drier soil. Don't overwater thyme, Rosemary, and sage. Mints, basil, lavender, cilantro, and dill need daily watering. I don't know about tarragon. Tarragon is one of my favorite herbs yet I have yet to master growing it. I tried Mexican tarragon, thinking it might do better in a hot climate, and it was the first casualty of this year's herb garden.

Some herbs prefer partial shade.

Finally, all herbs need pruning. The best method is to use some daily in your cooking! Yum! Fresh herbs can turn any dish into a gourmet treat. Experiment with different herb combinations. My family loves spearmint and lavender in steamed carrots. I've not seen that in a cookbook, but I tried it (based on fragrance). A sprig of Rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme go into the pan with all my roasts: poultry, pork, or beef. I add sage leaves to poultry. Basil is delicious when added just before serving to pasta dishes or tomato sauces. And don't forget basil for fresh pesto.

Don't be afraid to try growing herbs. Even if you lose some plants, you are dollars ahead of buying fresh herbs at a supermarket.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I previously blogged that I was struggling to narrow my favorite novels to a top ten list. I'm still working on the list, and instead of narrowing, it grows. So many to decide?

So here are five more picks for you to read or reread this summer, whether you're camping in the mountains or sunbathing by the pool. Just don't forget to reapply the sunscreen or bug repellent because you're certain to lose track of time.

ANNA KARENINA by Leo Tolstoy
This was required reading for a humanities class I took in college, but it was no chore. I read on breaks and lunch hours at work, I read sitting at the Laundromat, I read well into the night when I should have been sleeping. It's a tragedy, but what a rich story. The setting and characters come to life, rounding out a sad tale of a woman's descent into mental illness and obsession, driven by guilt. I haven't seen the newest film adaptation, but I can't imagine it being as complete as Tolstoy's book.

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Required reading in high school, this book threw me into the lost generation. I read everything I could get by Fitzgerald. I devoured the biographies of both him and his wife Zelda (the quintessential flapper). I adored the film Midnight in Paris, in which Owen Wilson time-travels back to the Jazz Age and meets the Fitzgeralds. The best book, alas, was the first I read. Gatsby is a quick read, and not a word is wasted. The reader sees the excesses of 1925 society and the sad and extravagant efforts by the title character to reclaim the woman he loves. Again, no film can do this book justice, although Hollywood tries.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens
A classic and timeless tale of redemption, which I've already written about in an earlier post at Christmas. Last time I checked, this was a free Kindle download.

THE FLY ON THE WALL by Tony Hillerman
I've enjoyed all of Hillerman's books, but this one is a favorite. I rented it on audio for a business trip and became so engrossed I missed my exit! I was nearly late for a meeting because I had to turn around and backtrack. It's the story of a reporter who is like a fly on the wall--unnoticed but hearing and seeing all. Unfortunately he knows too much. This is an intrigue that begins with a murder in the Capitol. It's a bit of a departure for Hillerman because there's no Joe Leaphorn or Jim Chee in this book.

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
I didn't expect to love this book. I'm a Southern white woman who lived through the Civil Rights period, but this setting was outside my experience. My family was blue-collar, and we barely made ends meet. There was no money for help. None of my friends could afford servants. Except for skin color, I identified more with the help than with the wealthy employers. Yet I did love this book. Its themes are universal, and Stockett captures the humanity that makes us good and pure of heart regardless of skin color. There is only one race--the human race. Everyone should read this book. (Hollywood did a very good job putting this one on screen, too.)

There you have ten of my favorite reads. But there are so many more! Runners up include Jack Dawes by Ken Follett, Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, and Harvest by Tess Gerritsen. And many more.

Your turn. What books have captivated you? Changed you or profoundly affected you? Leave a comment.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Have you ever been asked to name your favorite novels? What a difficult task! But I gave it lots of thought and started a list. I have five books named so far. These are either classics or contemporary fiction. I'll share the list with you as long as you understand it is a work in progress. Download these on your e-reader or buy or borrow them, but read them.

If you are a writer and you don't see your book listed, don't be offended. I love so many authors and so many books. It's really hard to pick just five. Or ten, for that matter. But here goes--the first five on my must-read list:

JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
I read this book before there was a movie, a franchise, and sequels. It is one of the most compelling reads I've enjoyed. It has interesting characters, suspense, danger, and dinosaurs. The kid inside me loves the dinosaurs. If you saw the film and think you know Jurassic Park, you don't. Read the book. I didn't care for the sequel Lost World.

The "comedy of manners" continues to be a favorite of mine. It's a wonderful, delightful study in romance and human nature, set in the strict class-conscious society of England in the early 1800s. From a story structure standpoint, it's perfectly written. Not a word is wasted, and the pacing is spot on. Don't believe me? Open the book to the middle and there is the climax of the story. It's a masterpiece. (Close runner-up is EMMA)

LONESOME DOVE by Larry McMurtry
I started reading this novel after watching the television mini series (very good, by the way, and true to the book) and couldn't put it down! What a wonderful saga. This book has everything: quirky characters, humor, adventure, drama, romance. The sequel was utterly disappointing to me. If you're interested, read the prequels, DEAD MAN'S WALK and COMANCHE MOON, then LONESOME DOVE. Skip the last book.

LAST OF THE BREED by Louis L'amour
Another page turner, I couldn't put this book down even to eat. A USAF pilot crash lands in the USSR during the Cold War and is imprisoned in Siberia. He escapes and must depend on his native American tracking skills to survive and get home. I'm so mad at L'amour for dying before he finished writing the sequel.

PEACHTREE ROAD by Anne Rivers Siddons
Amazing story about a talented but troubled young woman and her faithful friend and cousin, it's set in Atlanta during its growing years (1950s--1970s). Rich with pop culture, it's a pleasure to watch the drama unfold. Spoiler alert: The ending has been debated at book clubs for years. Was Shep's leap for joy a metaphor for finally getting on with his life, or was it suicide? Clever Anne Rivers Siddons leaves us guessing.

Stay tuned for the next five in my list of unforgettable novels I've loved.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Today's post is about the 2010 movie, Red. Red is supposedly a CIA acronym for Retired-Extremely Dangerous. The movie trailer promotes Red as sort of Space Cowboys meets Taken. While it has plenty of action and intrigue, Red is a romance. It even makes references to category romance novels.

No spoilers. You'll have to see the film. I will tell you, however, that there are two romances. One is between a couple (played by Mary Louise Parker and Bruce Willis) who've never met yet nuture a connection (pun intended) via telephone calls. One is a reunion romance between two older agents (Helen Mirren and Brian Cox). Events bring them together and running for their lives. And that's all I'll tell you about the plot.

See Red. It's delightfully entertaining. It has adventure, action, comedy, and--most of all--romance. I loved it! ♥

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Quintessential Flapper

This week, when I heard that the talented Mindy McCready had killed herself after a troubled career and personal life, I was reminded of other troubled celebrities who met a tragic end. Zelda Fitzgerald immediately came to mind.

Born in 1900, she was the baby of the family and used to spoiling and attention. She never outgrew her need for attention, it seems.

In the 1920s, when Zelda Sayre married the newly published novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, she was the epitome of post-war hedonism. Dressed in the latest style with her hair bobbed and her skirts shortened, she was the quintessential flapper. Her chaotic and fast-lane living was the stuff of tabloids, and the journalists of the day never ran out of fodder. The Fitzgeralds left damage wherever they went. They drank to excess, partied and flirted, publicly quarreled, and danced on tabletops. The antics of Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears don't hold a candle to the outrageous Zelda Fitzgerald.

By the mid-twenties, she was living abroad with her husband, part of the Lost Generation. By the great depression, she'd experienced her own and descended into mental illness. She died when the hospital in which she was institutionalized burned.

But the fictional Zelda, the one we read in the persona of Daisy Buchanan (and other Fitzgerald heroines), endures, leaving a trail of collateral damage. 

What makes a woman who craves the spotlight self-distruct? It's tragic and senseless. Sadly, as with Mindy McCready, it happens still.

Saturday, February 02, 2013


It's Groundhog Day, and what better way to celebrate than by watching the movie, Groundhog Day?

This story (written by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis), about a conceited weatherman who relives the same day over and over until he gets it right, works for the same reason A Christmas Carol works. Both are stories of redemption. That's right. I'm putting Rubin and Ramis in the same class as Charles Dickens, and I suspect Dickens had a strong influence on their writing.

Groundhog Day is Phil Connor's story. Much like Scrooge, Phil scorns tradition and has little compassion. He's an insufferable jerk.
(spoiler alert!) At first he struggles with his curse of reliving the same day, even resorting to several suicide attempts. He uses what he learns about people to manipulate them and to score points with Rita.

When Rita suggests he consider the curse a gift, he starts to take advantage of reliving the same day as an opportunity to improve himself. He helps others avoid calamities he witnesses, and he learns ice sculpting and piano playing. Most of all, he learns to put others' needs first. We see the homeless man on the sidewalk Phil ignores later sitting at a lunch counter with Phil, eating hot soup. We all cheer at the reformed Phil, the man Rita can love. And his love for her finally breaks the spell.

If you've missed this movie, watch it. It's twenty years old but timeless.

Happy Groundhog Day!