Thursday, December 28, 2006

Well, the Big Day is over, presents that didn't fit have been exchanged, and now it's time to put the whole shootin' match back in the attic. Yep, I want it all gone -the red candles, the crystal snowflakes dangling from the chandelier, the tree(s). First, though, I'm heading out to RIR to pick up my season tickets for the May race. (NASCAR, of course!) There's hope in this sad little heart of mine that just holding the tickets will sustain me until Daytona and Race Week festivities in February. Daytona, here I come!

I've been thinking a lot about the creative process this week. My dear husband gifted me with MOCKINGBIRD, a biography of Harper Lee, for Christmas. Friends of Miss Lee gave her a year's worth of financial support so she could write her book. I keep thinking, what if these 'angels' hadn't taken the author under their wings and provided her with the means to produce what is a classic novel about the South and racism? Would TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD ever have been written? Every artist needs the support of someone who believes in him/her. Van Gogh had Theo. DaVinci had the wealthy Medicis. Michelangelo had patrons all over the place. But they're visual artists. Who supports the writers of this world? Grants, yes, there're some of those out there. Film institutes give film makers some moolah. But most of the writers I know either teach (sucking creativity out of you by the ton) or labor at boring jobs they hate, praying to get home to their true work, albeit exhausted at the end of a long day. A few of us have the unwavering support of families who believe in us, and for this, I'm truly grateful. What a wonderful gift, that of emotional and financial support for something that seems so esoteric to those who don't write. It's rare, believe me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Of Christmas and Odds and Ends

I feel as if this year is already over. Part of it is that I'm wrapping up some writing projects (as much as I ever can - I could rewrite forever), as well as doing the final wrapping on the boxes for under the tree. The family is all home, so my nest is fully feathered again.

Speaking of feathers, a young hawk has been using my yard for his buffet table. I ran into him by accident as he munched on a squirrel, and he and I stared at each other for what seemed to be quite a while. I think he was wondering if I was going to make a grab for his lunch, and I was wondering if he was interested in eating cat. Specifically, mine. The Biffmeister may have his yard forays curtailed until the Hawk finds fatter squirrels elsewhere. What surprised me most was this wildly beautiful creature treating a half acre of suburbia as if it were an unpopulated expanse of trees and critters. The way my mind works, I extrapolated this line of thought into the untamed and wild humans who don't know how or can't survive in civilization. I feel another plot coming on... Jeremiah Johnson was one of my favorite movies. Have to track it down and rewatch it. None of this makes sense, I know, but my mind is hopping around like Santa from chimney to chimney, and trust me, I know where I'm going.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, if I don't make it back before the 25th.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ward Burton is Back!

Ward "I ain't got no rust on me" Burton has signed to drive for Morgan McClure Motorsports out of Abingdon, Va., and it's about bloody time! I'm doing the happy dance this morning as I wrap and clean and generally obsess about how much I have to do. At least I can look forward to cheering the #4 car next year. Counting the days until the Daytona 500 here...hanging on by my fingernails.

In spite of the chaos of Christmas entertaining (sigh, why do we do this to ourselves?), I'm getting work done on Darkroom. Still tweaking. Still searching for the perfect verb. Since I don't read in the genre I'm writing (and never will again, since judging the Edgars about did me in), I picked up Gillian Bradshaw's Hawk of May and Kingdom of Summer. They're the first two books of three, written in the early 1980s, and are a retelling of the Arthurian legend that's most original. I love the deft use of supernatural elements and the fight between the Light and the Darkness. Good books. I'm going to track down the third book in the trilogy and research her newer books as well.

My nestlings are coming home this week, so the house will be filled for Christmas. That's my present to myself. I hope you and yours enjoy your time together.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Momentous Day

Today, my first born crosses the threshold into the age of full legal responsibilities and obligations. Yes, she's twenty-one at 2:30 this afternoon. I know it's a cliche, but where in the Sam Hill did the past twenty-one years go? We drove three hours to be with her yesterday and go out to lunch, but she was too busy to spend much time with us. That's the way it should be. I'm as proud as a mother could be of her, and consider her to be a nice person with a good heart - my strongest compliment.

Without NASCAR, (sob, sob!), I tried to fill my need for Speed by watching the NASCAR awards banquet. Please, get rid of Jay Mohr. He's an embarrassment. All in all, everyone looked uncomfortable in tuxes and best behavior. At least Denny Hamlin knew it ("Did I suck?"), and provided a rare moment of genuine humor, unlike Mohr's forced tackiness.

The fir tree is on the front porch, ready to come inside so I get decorate it. Colored lights are everywhere, and once I start the baking for my dad's 85th birthday party, it'll smell like Christmas as well as look like it. I love this run up to the 25th, but by the day after Christmas, I want it all down and packed away.

BTW, anyone have any ideas for gifts to give the man who has everything, and if he doesn't, he goes out a buys it?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trying Again....

Well, my last post disappeared into the ether, and since time is of the essence this time of the year, I did the only sensible thing - shut down the computer and went on to the next chore.

But I'm baaaccckkkk. . . and now that the outdoor Christmas lights are up, I'm feeling more in the spirit of the season. The tacky NASCAR Christmas palm tree is lording it over the family room (yes, you read that correctly), and the traditional fir will go up soon in the living room. Oh, I loaded the palm tree up with red chili pepper lights, to add insult to injury. I'm entertaining this season, and I can't wait to see jaws drop when their owners see Tony Steward, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, and Carl Edwards all over the tree. The shock value alone will be worth the effort, LOL.

I ran into a lady looking for a good mystery/suspense/romsusp yesterday, and to my shock, the shelves were devoid of the authors I love to recommend. Not a one was out - and it's not a good trend. I know shelf space for booksellers is at a premium, but jamming Nora Roberts (merciful heavens, the woman is prolific) and Janet Evanovitch into every square inch doesn't leave room for other good authors. Enough with the backlists, please.

I'll be in and out in the next few weeks, inbetween all the hubbub and working on the umpteenth version of DARKROOM. I love this book, and it's not leaving my computer until I have it exactly where I want it.

Hope you all save some time for the writing. I know it's what helps keep me sane this time of the year.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Giving Thanks

Thanks go out to all the wonderful people who support artists with their pocketbooks. Without you, we'd be passing out booklets in the mall, begging for alms. Just wanted to let you know, every penny you spend on artistic products, whether it's a book or a photograph at your local art show, is a penny well spent and much appreciated.

I'm hosting the Big Dinner this year, so my writing time is taking a hit. I can plot as I mash, baste, peel, and saute', but it's harder, LOL. It's a lovely day, Thanksgiving, and I'm very appreciative of this opportunity to thank all the people who mean so much to me, for their love and support.

BTW, I just started Eileen Dreyer's HEAD GAMES, and she had me with the first page. Scary stuff, great hooks,and wonderful writing. I also finished Karyn Witmer's A SIMPLE GIFT, in case I didn't mention it, and it's a book you need to run, not walk, and buy. A rings-true story of a marriage in trouble because of a troubled child, and what happens when a surfeit of love is thrown back in your face. I cried. The ending is good, however, so all you HEA types will be satisfied.

On another and not so pleasant note, I hear there's a row between the prolific and well-respected Anne Stuart and an anonymous blogger who crowns herself Miss Snark. The issue is: can you ever criticize your publisher in public? Well, do you criticize anyone, except politicians, in public? Is it a Southern thing, to keep your complaints private? Probably, as it's very old-fashioned. I wouldn't have said (for print)what AS did, but she just has more balls than I ever will. Dirty linen and all that stuff. . . At least AS doesn't believe in rolling along with the status quo, which is a good thing for writers who want more.

And don't we all?

Still and all, gratitude pays huge dividends, and wanting, it seems to me, denies having the good already bestowed.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Goosebumps and the Writer

Have you ever had a perfectly good story idea, worked it out on paper, liked it, found it charming, but just knew it was missing something??? Boy howdy, has that happened to me a ton. I have a hundred pages in a new mystery series I really like, and after playing with the plot, the characters, the whole nine yards, it was good, but not great. Not where I wanted it to be. Then, after a session with my brainstorming babes, the inimitable Jenn, Carolyn, Nat, and Kathy, the TA-DA moment struck me like a Mac truck. Goosebumps all over. I knew, finally, what the story line needed to give it high octane gas. Dancing around the office is dangerous - those piles of books can trip you up if you're not careful - but I did share this plot gem with my writing peeps. They agreed - the Get-up-and-go factor had fallen into my brain. Yippee! I feel as if I've won the Cup this year!

Speaking of Cup runs, loved seeing Kevin Harvick up on the wheel yesterday at Phoenix. Harvick, you're the man. Johnson may take the Cup this year, but he hasn't won the races Harvick has. Running second all the time doesn't make you a winner in my book. Here's to next year, and a 2007 Cup champ I can respect. I want goosebumps when the winner takes the checkered flag. Harvick is one of the rare breed who can do that for me.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What Happened to Last Week?

Are you like me, wondering where in the tarnation time goes? I thought time was a chimera when my children were little, and I'd wake up one day and it was a year later. Now, I'm feeling the same way. It's incredible how it's suddenly midnight, and I look up to discover another day has slipped into the immediate past. A TV program was showing future products to make life easier, and all I saw were gizmos and gadgets to make lives go faster. Enough, already. I'm going to vote to abolish automobiles so we all have to ride horses or take a buggy to get from A to B. Horses are lovely creatures, they're kind to the environment, and they're fun, besides.

However, stock cars and NASCAR aren't on my anti-progress hit list, not yet. Brian Vickers' lightning fast qualifying for the race in Texas tomorrow got my heart pumping. Okay, so some things can still go really, really fast.

Wish the writing went faster. Normally, I'm pretty quick, but right now, it's going at the pace of a very old, very slow mare. I'm not going to apply the whip, not yet. I'll let it plod along until something jumps out of the bushes and gives it a good scare to get it going.

I'm reading The Thirteenth Tale, sold to me by a bookseller who recommended it highly. I love the way it describes the narrator's love affair with books, but in all honesty, it needs to get itself in gear. A little bit of Brian Vickers wouldn't hurt.

Okay, so I'm slightly hypocritical when it comes to speed. Stock cars and book openers need it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

This Time of Year

Life chugs along the tracks a lot faster, it seems, when the air clears itself of all that humidity, the clouds seem whiter, and night falls faster. I don't know why - maybe we're not heading to the beach or lake and our hours need to be filled with something more productive. I know I'm tackling projects I've ignored all summer. My To-Do list grows daily, I fear.

Yesterday's race in Atlanta ended up on TiVo because we were too busy to watch. Yikes. Must prioritize better. The fall plantings had to get in the ground, however, while the weather is good. I want peonies next year, and had to clear room for new azaleas. Digging in the dirt is good for creativity, I've found. New ideas turn up with the loam.

I'm into gratitude in a big way, as well. I'm grateful for safer cars (won't go into details, but now I NEED a new car), a loving family, and all that's right in the world. It's easy to get swept into negativity, but so much more productive to see the positive side of things.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sunburn, Rain, Freezing Cold, and the Boos

What a wild weekend. Ended up with a sunburn after the Craftsman Truck races on Saturday (yeah, Jack Sprague!), and froze my fanny off on Sunday morning as it rained and generally proved to be a miserable day for the sixth race for the Cup. Around 2 p.m., as the sun peeked out, the day improved for everyone but the cars caught up in the 18 cautions at the paperclip track called Martinsville. Interesting race. I think what surprised me the most was the loud and widespread booing that greeted Jimmie Johnson's victory lap. His crowd reception after winning the Daytona 500 wasn't so negative. All his whining has caught up to him. As my neighbor said, a Chevy won, just not the right one. Denny Hamlin, you're the man. David Regan, go back to go karts. You deserved a black flag after initiating your third wreck and taking out Ken Shrader.

What the TV cameras didn't show was Jack Sprague's little girl, racing onto the track and into his arms after he exited his truck. Watching him swinging her around in a big bear hug, I thought to myself, "this is the real prize, and he knows it." Good man.

Maggie Sefton, of the Knit One, Kill Two mystery series, is coming to visit on Thursday. It'll be fun to see her again.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Paperbacks and Martinsville

Just received my author copies of the paperback version of Yes, the River Knows today. It's fun to hold it in a different format, and pleasing to see its reviews printed in the book itself. I'm glad it's finally out.

We're racing this weekend - my fav short-short track, Martinsville, where we'll have our college kids and their buddies in tow. Even my intellectual, quiet, very refined child is going. We talked her into the Daytona Busch race this past summer, and much to our surprise, she loved it. On her feet, fist pumping the air, she screamed for Todd Kluever in the 06 car like a Nascar veteran. Now, she even owns a Greg Biffle hat and has an 06 sticker on her car window. Our racin' child is, of course, going - I don't think we'd be allowed to survive if we didn't pick her up on the way to the track, LOL. Looking forward to it.

The book revisions languish as I assemble all the racing gear, tailgating food and supplies, make sure batteries are operational for all the headphone radios, etc. No complaints - it helps to get away from the computer for a few days. My new motto is: don't sweat the small stuff. It's the big picture that counts, both in fiction writing, where you have to have a story and without one, even the most brilliant prose is just that, prose, and in life. Take care of the details, but don't obsess. Remember, it's the big picture that counts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

No Apology Needed

Brian Vickers, quit apologizing. You said you didn't mean to dump Johnson, now it's his turn to grow up and accept what happened at Talladega. Junior has, much to his credit! Man, you won the race - have fun with it.

Growing up means taking what you don't like or want along with the good stuff. It'll turn around if you hang in there long enough, and if it doesn't, well, it's time to take another tack, find another path, etc. When a book doesn't want to come around, no matter how many chances I give it, how much I spill my heart and craft into it, it's time to shove it under the bed and let it gather dust bunnies.

You may have gathered I'm in the throes of manuscript revisions. One is coming along nicely, thank you very much. The other....well, it's half-way under my bed at this moment. I'll give it another go tomorrow, but I refuse to suffer over it anymore if it's not going to be nice.

Jimmie Johnson, be nice. Earnhardt has been. And if you can't be nice, at least have the decency to mope out of sight. Under a bed, maybe, with the dust bunnies to keep you company?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

That Little Fraction of an Inch

Anyone watching the race at Talladega today knows where of I speak. I was on my feet, screaming with everyone else in Nascar-land, as Jimmie Johnson made his move around Junior, with Brian Vickers, his faithful teammate, ready to push him to the win. Only that's not what happened - Vickers got a fraction of an inch too close to Jimmie's bumper at about 198 mph, and Johnson and Junior twirled like whirligigs into the infield as Victers took the checkered flag. That's what happens in racin', and congrats to Vickers on his first Cup win.

Missing the game plan by that itty-bitty bit happens all the time in the land of fiction writing. Now, no one hits the wall, no one flips like a quarter settling a bet, and no one gets hurt. (I hope not.) But let's be honest - sometimes we just can't get that chapter "right," or a character doesn't quite come to life. It's almost there, but it's still a miss, and you end up in the infield wondering what happened to your story. Been there, done that - a lot. What do you do? As Junior says, there's always a race next week, and there's always another chance to fix the bad stuff. And if it's not fixable, well, you shake your head and walk away. Sometimes the frame is too bent.

Just finished Shana Abe's The Smoke Thief, a fantasy romance set in Georgian England that's lushly written and filled with exquisite details. I've never read Abe' before, but I'm glad I found her.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Cutting it Off

Well, I lasted as long as I could. A vain attempt to let my hair grow to one length just bit the dust. Couldn't stand the bangs, the hair on the back of my neck, having to mouse and spray and generally torture my hair, ao yesterday, my hairdresser took it all off. Yep, back to my short, hang-the-head-out-the-car-window-to-dry hair. Freedom. I have no patience for fooling with hair, and I admit, lots of other bits of small stuff. The older I get, the more I want to concentrate on what matters. Hair isn't one of those things, LOL.

When I'm working on a book, however, I'll fool with it 'til the cows come home. I'll spray it with ideas and stick it with words, then pull them out and throw them back in, until it feels right for the story. Getting the story into shape requires patience and persistence, both efforts I'm willing to give the work.

Not hair, however. It's on its own. I wonder about that word, hairdresser. Did it originate in the days when men and women wore elaboratelyl powdered wigs that needed 'dressing?' I'll have to check that out. I might need the information one day for a story. You never know...

Oh, just read Jennifer Archer's Off Her Rocker. I liked it, but I still think her The Me I Used to Be should have won the Rita Award. I'm also re-reading Elaine Pagel's Adam, Eve, and the Serpent. It's been a while since the last reading, and I'm still pulled into it as I read. Lots to think about.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why Settle?

My husband and I were test driving a car I've been lusting after (well, wanting...) and while it was nice (what a killer of a word), it didn't have everything I wanted on it. In fact, its interior was a color I don't enjoy. Trying to convince myself, I told my husband "Well, I can learn to live with it." He turned to me and said, "Why settle for something less than what you really want?"

Good point and well said. Why do we settle for "almost" there? Service that's barely service. Repair work done in a sloppy manner. Books that have a great opener, then slide downhill from there. We shouldn't settle. I'm a quick writer, which means that once I have the story and characters in my head, I spill them on the page. Going back, I clean up the language, polish, cut, add where I need to, and hopefully pat and shape the story into a firmer mold than that first draft. I can't imagine doing otherwise. When it leaves my hard drive, it's as good as I can make it. Not perfect, and often not what I originally envisioned, but I'm usually exhausted with doing my best to make its final form as good as I can.

As my father always said, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

And as my husband says, why settle?

And to Jeff Burton, congrats on the Dover win. He didn't settle for second this time. What a great race with Matt Kenseth.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Well, I'm working on a hard scene in Whatever Lola Wants, and my daughter writes me that she wants the next chapters of Saving the Sun God. Yikes. Little does she know she's thrown me for a loop. I get into a book, and it's all I can see. I've been letting Sun God sit so I can read it with distance between it and its creation, and not thinking about it has given me permission to sink into Lola's magic. Now, I'm back to thinking about Sun God. I'm not so sure I do well with two or more projects at once, and heaven knows how I get myself into this mess, but I always do. It's as if the stories refuse to wait quietly in the queue, clawing and climbing over each other instead to take the top spot. I need to tell Sun God to sit quietly in the corner for a bit longer, while I work out the kinks in this crucial scene in Lola, but I'm having a hard time doing it.

Diversions abound, I fear. The ten cup races that remain in the chase. Weekends traveling to the races. Some good movies. Loved "Hollywoodland." "The Illusionist" was perfect. A new Rexanne Bechnal book I just picked up. (Old Boyfriends - what a winner.) Dust bunnies and dog fur all over the office. Parents Weekend at my daughters' schools. Friends. Dates (! Yes!) with my dearest. Empty nesting is like being newly married. I highly recommend it. But the diversions are going to have to go away if I'm actually going to get anything done, LOL.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What a Race!

If I overdo the exclamation points, I'm sure you'll understand why if you watched the Cup race at RIR on Saturday night. When Kevin Harvick pulled past Kyle Busch on the last lap, I rose to my feet in awe. Busch led most of the last half of the race, but Harvick had the patience of a stalking cat after a vole. Kasey held on for third, getting the job done to get in the Chase, but Harvick was Magic Man that night. The 22 car piloted by Dave Blaney and the 21 with Ken Schrader aboard were both spectacular. Wily veterans both, running for small stables, having mediocre years at the best, they finished in the top seven. I love it when underdogs pull out all the stops and it works!

I'm reading Susan Elizabeth Phillips' AIN'T SHE SWEET? I don't know how I missed it, since DREAM A LITTLE DREAM one of my favorites. The heroine did something (actually, many things) that were unforgivable when she was a teenager, but now she's back in town, fifteen years later, downtrodden but not willing to give up until she does what she needs to do. Her goal is altruistic, but how to show a character who, before the book began, did something so awful the reader cringes while reading about it - that's where the magical Phillips touch is at its peak. If Harvick was the Magic Man on Saturday, SEP is the Magic Woman of women's fiction.

Tomorrow is the day when everyone will be thinking of the Twin Towers in NYC. It sounds very sixties and trite, but what we need is Love to overcome hate. Hatred has no power and can only crumple like a wet paper bag when exposed for the fraud it is by the power of such love.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Chase is ON!

Wow, did anyone else have a breathless moment when it looked as if Reed Sorenson, the 20 year old Chip Gnassi driver of the #40 car, was going to snatch a win from Kasey Kahne last night at Sonoma? His gas gamble petered out a mile from the finish line, but hey, he threw everything he had into the strategy, and good for him. Still, Kasey had the car to beat, and he deserved the win. But Reed earned my respect.

I like the idea of trying something different. Forget tires, forget pit times, forget riding the low or the high line - get down to basics. Betting it all on a splash of gas was gutsy, and even though Reed looked totally dejected by his 21st place finish, he deserves kudos. He tried the ultimate strategy - did he have enough gas to cross the finish line without a pit stop? Not this time. But I liked his thinking. Go flat out, put it all on the table, don't hold anything back.

That's how I hope to write. Throw it all on the track, don't hold back. If it doesn't work, well, it doesn't work. But I'll have tried.

By the way, the Richmond race this coming weekend promises to be a lulu. Kasey's Big Mo better stick with him if he wants to make the top ten for the Chase. Think of me tailgating and screaming my fool head off at the track. Can't wait!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Road Trips and the Writer

Well, I know I said I was buckling down when the last child went to university, but what can I say? When my husband offered a long weekend in Chicago, dinner at the Signature Club on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building, and shopping on Michigan Avenue, was I going to say "No, dear, I need to stay home and work?" You may now quit laughing. We had a lovely time, I did work on seven pages on my laptop, and yes, having dinner next to plate glass window 1200 feet (is that right?) in the air is an experience I won't ask for again. I carefully looked out at the horizon, not down, LOL. It was fun, being a couple again, no children in tow, not worrying about their schedules, who had to be where when, etc.

Did I mention reading Rexanne Bechnal's OLD BOYFRIENDS? It's wonderful, and I highly recommend it. I wish I'd written it.

So, I'm working on WHATEVER LOLA WANTS, shaping up the first three chapters and synopsis, while I let SAVING THE SUN GOD sit. Time away from something new is what works for me - I can see it with "fresh eyes" when I pick it up again to give it a thorough reading. LOLA is rolling onto the hard drive at a mile a minute. I'm really liking the heroine, Genevieve Caradon, who has just adopted a multi-racial child in Macedonia, Georgia. Lola, the child, wants a daddy to dance with her at the father-daughter dance at her school, and Gen is determined to give Lola whatever she wants. Only Gen is middle-aged, never had a serious beau, and is a librarian who was raised by her two gay uncles. Lola, however, is determined. How she goes about getting men interested in her new mommy is a riot to write.

It's nice to be home. The dog and I are still listening for a car door to slam about 3:30, 4:00, and a crowd of kids to pile into the house, but we're loving the quiet.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Scary Moments

As a writer, I'll use violence when necessary in my mysteries. My westerns pull no punches. The American West was a violent time. When writing about murder and mayhem, I'm not too squeamish, which probably relates back to my days practicing criminal law. People do bad things. The redemption story - and appropriate punishment - are at the heart of most memorable mysteries.

But when my daughter's first day of classes at her university were cancelled because an escaped killer (two law enforcement officers slain) was on campus, I experienced one of those horrible mother moments when your stomach literally knots and you can't breathe. If I hadn't been with my writing friends, having our monthly plotting session, I'd have been flying down the road, pedal to the metal, to her school to protect my baby. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and we continued to work on plot problems, all the while praying for calm and the police. The bad guy was apprehended, the campus went back to normal, and I can breathe again.

Real life is much scarier than fiction, trust me. It takes a lot of prayer to see through the darkness.

Friday, August 18, 2006

One Down,One to Go

Well, the racin' child is now in hog heaven. Her first hour in her new dorm at her new university, and she met a guy who's been six times to the races at Bristol. I must say, we were impressed. Bristol is a hard ticket to come by! Of course, wouldn't you know that Kasey Kahne (her fav driver) came to town the morning we were to leave for school, four hours down the road? Sure enough, a Kasey Kahne appearance trumped getting checked into her dorm, and she and her best bud, Kate, rose at the crack of dawn to get in line to see KK. Only there was no line. Two teen-aged girls rising at six a.m. is not a pretty picture, especially when there was no need, LOL. Still, they got to see their Nascar hero, get his autograph, and stay awake at the same time. Going to university wasn't even a close second.

I'm living with to-do lists permanently attached to my hand these days. I'm hoping, once my oldest is back at her university in another week and a half, I'll be down to one thing to do - WRITE. It's been hit and miss this past week, and I'm feeling antsy about my hero and heroine. I'm anxious for them to get into more trouble, work their way out of it, and discover they love each other at the same time.

An interesting tid-bit from RWA Nationals - did you know that of the mass market paperbacks sold, 55% of them are romance? And of that 55%, 20-25% are classified as paranormals. Wow. Interesting statistic.

Before I forget, run out and buy John J. Lamb's THE MOURNFUL TEDDY. Good mystery, great read, even if you're not a teddy bear collector. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Long Time No Blog

It's been a blue moon since I've posted - no excuses. RWA was its usual wonderful experience. Great seminars, wonderful writers, good time had by all. I'm always energized by the collective creative energy that blossoms when imaginative people gather in one place. Then it was off to Lake Gaston for a short family break before school starts. We've never been there before, but we'll go again. Came home feeling fat and sassy, and having shot the hero (not in real life, this is a rough draft, LOL) in Saving the Sun God. Had to figure out who shot him and why - I'm always digging myself into plot holes I never expect to dig, but it's fun to climb out of it. Even maniacial plotters like moi turn into pantsers now and then.

The horrible heat has broken for a few days, and I took time to plant an ornamental given to us by a friend, as well as tackle the hairy bushes. Ripped out my fried tomato plants, sigh. It's a lot like writing through the hairy parts of a work -in- progress. Taking a few hours to trim back the wild branches in the story gives me a clearer view of where I'm going with the next chapters. Tearing out the dead parts makes the plot cleaner as well. Hate doing it, but it's better now rather than later. If I'm terribly fond of the discarded prose, I saved it to another file and delude myself that I'll be able to use it later. Never happens.

Oh, read James Lee Burke's Crusader's Cross while at the lake. I'm worried about Dave.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

This has been one of those months. Been away from home too much. My writing suffers, even if I take my laptop and work sporadically. I love seeing other places, eating someone else's cooking, and being with friends and family. But enough is enough. I need my desk, my own bed, and my routine. Life is pretty much a-kilter at the moment because my youngest is shopping and packing to enter Architecture School at a top ten A-school in a few weeks. She's signed up for her courses, gotten her student ID card, bought extra-long sheets for the dorm beds, and is generally pretty together. I'm not sure I am. When both children (they're really adults now, but not to me!) fly the coop, leave the nest, hit the long road to self-sufficiency, etc., I'm going to wonder what hit me. How did the past twenty years get by me so quickly? I know every parent thinks this, but it's true. They're still our babies, no matter when they strike out to forge their new lives, and I'm going to miss them. And as far as I'm concerned, they were in diapers just yesterday. The cliches really do fit!

So, off to Atlanta next week for the Romance Writers of America conference. I love the energy that comes from assembled artists. It's almost as if we absorb creativity with every breath at a conference with the depth and scope of RWA's. The only down side is having to wear shoes - I really have a hard time in a hot summer slipping into anything but sandals on my feet. So if you see a lady in a suit wearing Dr. Scholl's, you'll know I gave up on the shoes. Say hi if we run into each other on an elevator!

Saturday, July 08, 2006


We're back from the races in Daytona, and I have to say, they were wonderful. There's nothing like racing under the lights - the cars glitter and the excitement level ratchets up a ton. The evening cool helped also - it was hot as blue blazes in the sun. A weekend of racing, time at the beach, lots of games played with the children and their buddies (how humiliating to lose! EEK, I have to work on my Cranium skills!), all added up to a nice break. Now it's back to work!

I'm putzing with the current WIP. Made a huge dent in my TBR pile in Florida (beach, umbrella, book - what else is there?), and came out of them with an uneasy sense that I don't like a lot of the new stuff. Judgmental characters. Too much insight, answers that come too easily. Coincidences that solve the mystery. Flawed characters who are almost perfect in their flaws. So I found some old Georgette Heyers I'd packed for the girls (I have one Jane Austen fan who will read GH because she's as close as she can get to the Real McCoy, and honestly, how many times can you read Pride and Prejudice?), and fell in love with her all over again. Witty dialogue. Characters who struggle to understand and cope with situations beyond their control. Flaws that are both unique and very human. Charm mixed with pathos, frustration, and anger. What a writer she was. I'm green with envy.

Time to quit the putzing and get in gear. As Elliot Sadler (the #38 M&M car) says, put it in fourth and stay there. (Has anyone else noticed how cute he's gotten?)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Heat and the Writer

As I turn the air conditioner down another notch and feel guilty, I confess I'm not capable of doing my best work, or any work, for that matter, when my wrists stick to the wrist support and sweat dribbles off my nose onto the keyboard. I fight the hothouse flower syndrome, mostly because I can't stand the transition from hot, humid Southern summer into freezer-cold houses, but now and then I give up. Mostly now I've surrendered to the AC. The year's longest day was just forty-eight hours ago, and I'm ready for fall. For fall planting - there's a mock orange I never got into the ground, and more bulbs I've collected over the past few months - and for the promise of cooler nights and crisper days. The September race that sets the field for the Chase. October in Martinsville, the small track roaring. We'll collect our racin' child from her university and keep up the family tradition of weekends with Nascar. Right now, I'm packing for Daytona and the 400, adding extra sunscreen in the suitcases, loading the tailgating gear.

I thought it was hard to write in the summer when my children were little, but it's just as hard now. I can find a zillion other projects demanding my attention. Hours spent watering the Viette day lilies, the zinnias and geraniums, the pikake and impatiens, weeding the garden and mulching it, are well spent, but not conducive to finishing a book. Sigh. I'll get it done, but only if I can't find any more excuses to pull me away from the office. Now that I've given in to the AC, I can't complain that it's too hot to work at the computer.

But I can worry about the Mountain Laurel I put in the ground two weeks ago. Maybe I'd better check on it, see if it needs more water in this heat.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Theme Runs Through It

After attending a wonderful workshop presented by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, I started thinking about a book I've always liked, (and wrote several years ago), but wasn't quite sure what it was missing. Every time I re-read it, I knew it was some of my best writing, but there was an element I hadn't found when I reworked it over and over, and I still wasn't happy with the final result. The workshop gave me that 'AHA!' moment we writers live and breathe to receive. That one theme I'd missed came to me with such clarity, I ran home and started to write.

I love the company of other writers. The creative energy never fails to work its magic, and the gift of new ideas and ways to get the words down on paper is priceless. Even when the writing is trickling like mud through an hour glass, being with other writers lifts me up and inspires me to get back to work. The writing has been slow recently - family obligations, graduations, life - but I'm ready to plunge back into the melee and start shaping characters and plots again. I love this part the best - the stage where I'm learning who these people are and why they're doing what they're doing. Reworking a finished piece is never fun, and it's hell when I can't figure out what went wrong. Whenever I see the missing puzzle piece, however, I feel as if I've been given a gift from the writing gods.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

New Website is up!

Please stop by and check it out. Let me know what you think!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Web site down temporarily

Just in case anyone is wondering, my web site is traveling through cyberspace to a new host site, so it's been down for a bit. Hopefully, it'll be back today or tomorrow, along with its email function.

The site's new look is fantastic. Plus, I have a few pictures from tracks we like. (Nascar, of course, LOL.)

Friday, May 19, 2006

New Beginnings

A friend and I have been discussing beginnings and when to leave them alone. I've always been of the theory that as far as my writing is concerned, I need about forty pages to get warmed up, then the real story starts. In an attempt to cut down on those pages that end up trashed, I'm forcing myself to start where the story begins, right off the bat. I'm not sure it's working for me. A hundred pages into a book, and my mind wanders back to page 1, and I feel this almost uncontrollable need to start again. I've decided this urge is hitting me because I didn't get warmed up doing those forty pages, and something inside of me misses knowing that part of the story that no one else will ever read but moi. Sigh. Writing habits are hard to break, especially when they're longstanding. On another note, my new website will be online any day now, and I can't wait for ya'll to check it out. Along with a beautiful new format, it will have a smattering of pictures from races we've attended. Nascar, of course. I had to fight the urge to post hundreds of them, just for my own amusement. New beginnings in many ways - web sites and starting a new book - are wonderful. I'll let you know this fall how it feels when my racin' child goes off to college and our house is down to the two of us for the first time in many years. That'll be a new beginning, for sure!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Junior! Denny!!

Well, the weather was a factor Friday night for the Busch races, that's for sure. After two and a half hours of sitting in the rain in Turn 2, we wimped out and headed for the parking lot. The hours leading up to the green flag were great, except for a gust of wind that crumpled our tent's metal legs and sent it flying into the people parked next to us. They were fine, and I've never liked that tent anyway - setting it up makes me feel stupid and incompetent. The day's real success came when the girls (all three high school seniors) got to meet Kasey Kahne and have him sign their various hats, pass holders, etc. Evidently he thanked them - which sent the girls into the stratosphere. Waiting in line for an hour to get into the pits was definitely worth it. And finding out that Kasey Kahne is a gentleman was priceless. (Why do I sound like an American Express ad?) How about that Denny Hamlin??? Local boy comes home to race his friend and hero, nineteen stitches in his hand, and comes close to taking the checkered flag. While I'm happy for Junior and his win, my heart started pumping peanut butter when Denny took the lead. Oh my stars - talk about a heck of a race! Harvick should have won, and would have if he'd taken tires when everyone else pitted. That's what makes racin' what it is - a wild time filled with second-guessers who think they know what it takes to win a stock car race. I'm smart enough to know it's beyond my comprehension. Visiting the various racing establishments near Charlotte, N.C., taught me how much skill and expertise is needed to just walk into one of their while, gleaming, and seriously silent workshops. This is weighty business, ya'll, and not for those who aren't at the top of their game. Like my newest protagonist, who is figuring out just how naive she is when it comes to high stakes and playing for keeps. She has a steep learning curve, but she's getting there. Now that my racin' weekend is finished, I'm getting back to her and seeing if I can't make things worse for her, page by page.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Under the Lights

May 1, and the furnace is still running. EEK. I'm praying for warmth and lots of sun for this weekend's Richmond races. Can't wait - RIR is the best short track, bar none, and racing under the lights is magic. Watching testing a couple of weeks ago during daylight hours was interesting and fun, but nothing like the real deal when the lights pop on and night waves its wand over the racers. I'll report back about the festivities - we're taking our youngest and her best friends to the track for her high school graduation present, complete with pit passes. Yes, my baby will be out of high school and on her way to architecture school at VPI in a few months. Where has time gone? I'm going to miss my racin' child, but we'll pick her up for local races close to her university, so it's not as if she's disappearing. At least, that's what I tell myself....

Now back to work on the action/adventure/romance. I'm dying to see how these two, Matt and Frankie, figure out they can trust each other. Trust is the first step to love for them, but it's going to be a long row to hoe. I believe in making life hard for my characters, on the theory that they have to earn their right to happiness. Working hard for the good stuff makes for a better story and better people, in life as well as in fiction.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

MD Report

Malice Domestic was its usual fun and continues to be one of the conferences I always enjoy. Talking with readers is a highlight, as well as chatting with the other writers. The ladies on the "Legal Attitudes" panel were more fun than should be legal, and I can't wait to meet up with them somewhere, sometime in the future. I hope you all get a chance to attend in the future. Next year's date is the first weekend in May, I believe, at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. Now that I'm home and the new printer is up and running, I'm hard at work on a fun book - more action/adventure with romance thrown into the mix.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Malice Domestic this Weekend!

I'm heading out the door this weekend for Malice Domestic in Washington, D.C. Hope to see some friends, chat with mystery lovers, and buy tons of books to add to my TBR pile(s). (To Be Read = TBR) I'm on a panel titled "Legal Attitudes" on Sunday morning, with a booksigning following around 10:00 a.m. Last year's conference was a lot of fun, mostly because the attendees are so great. There's nothing I love more than talking about books with other people who love them as much as I do. If you live in the area and love mysteries, you can register on site. (It's a bit more expensive, but worth the money.) I'll report back about the conference when I'm home.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shame on NBC

My imagination has been seized by another story, and the research is drawing me in as swiftly and surely as Kasey Kahne did Tony Stewart in last week's race. Speaking of races, Martinsville was its usual interesting bang-em-up paperclip racing. A lovely day, bare chested men burning their winter-white skin, tailgating on a 50 degree hill, yes, it was a classic Martinsville experience. Speaking of which, I'm still fuming over NBC's attempt to create a 'situation' by importing Muslim-looking men and fitting them with hidden mikes. The only conclusion I can draw is that NBC believes all NASCAR fans are redneck loudmouths with a surfeit of racism. As I read what happened, it was a bust for NBC. No one paid any attention to bearded men in robes and funny hats. The guys were checking out the girls in their summer halter tops, more likely. And the girls were checking out hunky Carl Edwards and cute Kasey Kahne. That's what makes NASCAR racing great - the only controversy is over who bumped who on the track and was it a racing move or revenge? The sell-out crowd was there to see good racing, and until Kasey blew an engine, that's what they got. Why try to spoil a fun day by inciting an 'incident?' Shame on NBC. Believe me, the tattoos, pink and green hair dye, and umpteen different kinds of people didn't draw any attention - the racing did. And that's how it should be.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Letting Go

I'm in the throes of ripping out whole chunks of my current WIP (work in progress), not because the writing stinks, but because these chapters don't help drive the story forward. Ouch. As tempted as I am to save these wonderful words (my designation, LOL), I find it's easier to send them into the black hole of the delete button so I'm not tempted to try to work them in somewhere else in the book. That ploy has never worked for me, so it's better and less painful to say a fond adieu and hit the death key. Sigh. I know it's for the best, but . . . .

It's the same with my closets. Packed to the gills with the extraneous. I've toyed with the idea of a mass throw-away. A wholesale tossing of stuff no one cares about. However, there's one problem with my resolve to make more space. In my family, one line of women were sewers. Their creative talents showed up in smocked baby dresses, embroidered blouses, and elegant gowns that have been passed down through the generations. When my oldest child had to dress as her book character for a book report in the third grade, I found a 1930s dress for her to wear as she pretended to be Beverly Cleary. The other daughter discovered an original Hawaiian 1930s gown to wear to a dance, a style and era that fit her curvy figure perfectly. The same daughter wanted a graduation dress that wasn't like everyone else's (they have to wear long, white, and no cap and gown), so we shopped for a pattern and fabric to her liking. It's finished (thank goodness, well before the big day), and she brags to everyone how she and her mother made her dress. I'm sure her friends think she's insane for not buying a wedding dress, which is the norm for this crowd. She'll be the one in a simple white eyelet sundress she helped sew. One day, she'll find that dress in the back of a closet, and it'll bring back memories I hope she'll cherish. So for now, I've talked myself out of tossing the closet contents.

Unlike my story-stopping chapters, they can stay.

Monday, March 20, 2006

spring, Fast Openings, and Malice Domestic

The first day of spring, and my favorite time of year is about to bloom. After the freezing rain and snow, of course. My daffodils and the forsythia should survive, and the tulips are still a few weeks away, so they’ll be okay. I can’t wait for the azaleas and trees to burst out. Of course, better weather creates a dilemma for a writer. The alluring scent of new mulch and bright green grass is a huge temptation for those of us who like to play in the outdoors. We’ll see how much resistance I can muster.

I heard a talk by the incomparable Merline Lovelace a couple of weeks ago and was very grateful for her comments about how to start a story. I know what to do - get into the story with a solid swan dive. But for some reason, I always have to work out about forty pages before the story starts. The current work-in-progress has had at least five opening incarnations - a record for me. And I’m still not happy with it. Merline reminded me of the basic truth I’ve always worked with, and I just need to take a strong hand to the first three chapters and delete like crazy. Easier said than done, LOL.

Oh, I just received my panel assignment for Malice Domestic. Nine a.m. on Sunday, the 23rd of April, with a book signing to follow at ten a.m. Yes, the River Knows has been out since December, so maybe those of you who’ve read it would like to stop by and tell me what you think. I’d love to see you!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Killing Characters

I've been struggling this week with a plot device that has nipped me in the nether regions once before. In my Kiowa western series, a full-blown character rose from the computer screen to protest his imminent demise. He told me in no uncertain terms I couldn't kill him off. I relented and let him live, although his death would have made a great scene.

Since mysteries are focused on murder and mayhem, I haven't had this problem - until yesterday. I sat down to write the murder scene for a character to whom I've become inordinately attached. She's solid, living, and needed to die to propel the action. Couldn't do it. Just couldn't leave her dead in the fields of Culvert County. Instead, I gave her a reprieve by telling myself I could use her in another way, and proceeded to shoot a secondary character. He'll have to get a bigger role in rewrites to make his death serve the same plot function as Elnora's would have, but at least I skipped over the dilemma of losing Elnora.

This power-of-life-and-death thing is scary, sometimes. When and if you meet Elnora, congratulate her on her ability to take her own destiny into her fictional hands, and let me know if I did the right thing for the story by reprieving her. I sure hope so.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Oh Yeah, Racing is BACK

If I've been MIA for the past two weeks, it's because the lure of Daytona and Speedweeks was the siren call that lured me out of my office and into the Florida cold and drizzle. Well, to be honest, there were some sunny days, but I was grateful for a heavy jacket and raincoat, especially during the 500. I was almost too cold to stay to the end, but I made it! No matter what you think of Chad Knaus and his "modification" to the 48, Johnson ran a smart race. It didn't hurt to have Casey Mears on his bumper, either. For me, though, the really heart-stopping races came in the IROC (Mark! Out too soon!!) and the Busch races. The last lap, three wide and at full throttle, scared me silly. Elliot Sadler's win in the 150 was sweet as well. Despite the circus atmosphere, the racing was pure, flat-out, unmitigated war. Kudos to the survivors. Now, it's back to work. I've crawled back into my story and it's working its way out of my head onto the hard drive. Now and then, though, I get flashes of Michael Waltrip spinning through the grass with the other crash-ees at the finish line, and have to work hard to get back into the imaginary world of my WIP.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fear and the Writer

No, I'm not talking about the so-called writer's block enigma. The scary blank page. The unfinished book that has no end in sight. Those are too easy. I'm talking about fear of the government. Yours and mine. Just this week, I needed to research a plot point for the current work-in-progress, and my first instinct was to hit the Internet, the library, and then friends of the law enforcement type with experience in arresting this particular form of illegal activity. When I mentioned the plot device to my husband, he visibly paled. "Don't run that through Google," he sighed. "What if the FBI shows up at our door and takes all our computers?" His fear stopped me cold, then I began to analyze it. He was right. Information on the Internet isn't free- our government is watching, I'm sure. Even we writers who need to learn stuff for a book. Small defense, that one. As a lawyer, I recognized the implications once I set aside my writer cap. So, I took the next step that made sense - I emailed a friend with law enforcement expertise, and put in the heading of my email the topic I needed to discuss. His phone call came almost immediately. "Don't put anything like that in an email, okay?" he ordered. "The government has a program that'll find it and who knows what comes next?" Yikes. I'd done it this time. Fortunately, he shared his special knowledge with me over the phone. Although we laughed that the conversation was probably being monitored, I wondered later if it was a joke. I won't know unless and until the men with badges take me 'downtown.' In the meanwhile, I'll keep writing, using my friend's good information to make the plot device plausible, and hope I've swooped under the government's increasingly pervasive radar. Sounds like the Sixties again, doesn't it, with Herbert Hoover's unrestrained invasion into the privacy of thousands of unsuspecting Americans? Oh well, I cut my teeth on controversy - you can't practice law and avoid it. But if you don't hear from me in a while, send up the distress flags.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Art as Activism

We saw SYRIANA last night, and I went to bed thinking about it and woke up doing the same. Go see this movie! It's not only good entertainment, it's a pretty potent statement about oil, the U.S., terrorism, and the price one pays to do good or what passes for good. I'd like to compile a list of entertainment vehicles (film, books, TV) that use their forums to get out a message that needs broadcasting, while at the same time giving people a ride into the dark side they're willing to pay for. Photographs deliver a potent message, one that's immediate in the instant they're snapped. Films require more of an amusement value. People aren't as willing to sit through them as they would be to slog through a book everyone is reading, even if it's as dense as granite. Television offers such a vast array of shows, it's even harder to get people to sit still and watch something that isn't light or fluffy. THE GIRL IN THE CAFE' is a prime example of stellar television that kept me hanging onto its every word, its every plot turn. I also learned a heck of a lot about the G8, world hunger, and the death toll in Africa.

I wish my fiction drove people into action to right wrongs and do what's right. Think of CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. What a novel! All I can do, so far in my career, is shine a light in the dark corners of the individual human experience as my characters live it, and hope the revelation spreads luminosity and healing once the last page is turned. If the stories are entertaining as well, I'll be halfway there.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Activism and Courage

Yesterday, we drove down the road a bit to hear Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner. A lawyer and an Iranian, she devotes her life to defending her countrymen who have been imprisoned by the current government. More than that, she helps to support their families while her clients are imprisoned. One of her fellow activists, an attorney, is jailed now for the crime of defending dissidents to the Iranian regime. Her speech, given in Farsi and translated into English, resonated with the audience. Make a difference. Take a stand, even if it means you could end up in a very bad place. Sacrifice self for the good of those who need you. And don't confuse religion with those who say they act in its name. A Muslim, she believes God is with her in her work, and that the evil done in His name must be fought by all of us.

Good words. Strong words. A Turkish novelist, recently accused of crimes against the government for his criticism of its practices, is another activist who has garnered international support. Charges against him were recently dropped. We can make a difference. Speak up if you see wrong being done. Don't tolerage even a tiny bit of it. Work to obliterate evil done in the name of the "greater" good.

When you think about it, novels are a pretty good vehicle to carry the message. In the guise of entertainment, they can unmask the ugly, laud the good, and condemn the bad. My last mystery, Yes, the River Knows, deals with racism in the South, but its message is about redemption. Even the worst of all the ills can't hide if writers keep pulling back the skin to expose the wound to the light of day.

Think about the potential difference each of us can instigate. Mind-boggling.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Wonderful Words/Bad Laptops

Flipping through the latest Vanity Fair, I found a car ad that was sprinkled with words that lit a fire within me. The fold-out was titled "vibrant design is..." and I immediately read it as "vibrant writing is..." The words that follow give me hope. They are: iconic, focused, unconventional, intuitive, visionary, brave, artful, powerful, organic, distinctive, unexpected, simple, moving, fresh, alive, magnetic, mysterious, beautiful, timeless, breakthrough, engaging, challenging, unforgettable, and emotional. Wouldn't it be stupendous if every book bore the imprimatur of even a few of these ideas? I write with both hands wide open, praying I snag some in the tales that evolve from the stories that crowd my mind.

On another note, I'm sick of Hewlett Packard computers and their crummy warranty service. Long tale made short, HP refuses to replace a disintegrating keyboard on a less than three-month-old laptop. Keys fly off willy-nilly, keys stick, and I haven't even had a chance to abuse this Pavilion yet. Their attitude is arrogant and condescending, and I'm willing to take them on in court. Tackling a big corporation is going to be fun. It may even find its way into a book!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Blowing in the Wind

January's winds shake the pines and rattle what's left of the oak leaves. The Japanese maple's remnants skitter from the gutters and leap down the street, as if celebrating. This is a January I can endure, if not love. Writing with gray, gloomy skies doesn't interest me in the slightest. It's like writing at night - not my favorite time, either. Like my hundreds of newly planted tulip and daffodil bulbs, I crave sunshine and warmth to create anew. Meanwhile, I'm working on a couple of projects simultaneously, and telling myself spring is only a couple of months away.

The good news is, Florida and the Daytona 500 are a mere four weeks hence. Yes! I've taken my Mark Martin hat from the shelf and started wearing it around instead of my wool cloche. The sunglasses have gone into my race day backpack. I'm plotting our route to the track, where we'll park, what food for the tailgate party.

The sun toasts my arms, the engines rumble and scream like the Allman Brothers on a roll, and high octane fuel spits out fumes - in my imagination. Four more weeks! Yes! I can hold out!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Good Friends, Good Writing

Tracy Dunham
I'm really lucky, and I know it. I have writing friends who are not only nice people with good hearts, they have the courage to tell me when I'm messing up a manuscript. I just returned from a weekend where we camp out at a friend's condo in the mountains and work. And I mean, work. We brainstorm, critique, plan, encourage, etc. I discussed a book I wasn't happy with, and they hit right at the heart of the problem. Now, I just need to rip it apart and start over, but at least I was only sixty pages into it. It could have been a lot worse.

On the up side, everyone came away with a firm idea of what to do next with the writing and how to get there, and that's pure gold. There's nothing like creative energy that mushrooms, and we had that going on. Good food, good friends, creative energy, and a beautiful view - what more could a writer want? Oh yes - husbands who held down the home front while we worked. Boy, are we lucky, each and every one of us. And we know it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Our family holiday traditions include two that are, maybe, a bit odd. They started years ago when we were reading Shelby Foote's wonderful Civil War books and decided we'd visit every battlefield we could reach. Elkhorn Tavern and Wilson's Creek are two of my favs, but every year we re-visit Drewry's Bluff and Cold Harbor. Drewry's Bluff is reserved for Christmas Eve, which started as a trek designed to wear the kids out so they'd go to sleep that night. Not that the ploy worked, but we tried. Now, we hike the trail to the bluff overlooking the James River, listen to the Park Service sign tell us about how the Union tried just once to attack Richmond by river, and enjoy the sight of the city rising in the distance, framed by bare-limbed trees and a washed-out winter sky. The walk, except for one year when it was sleeting, is pleasant. Nothing scary remains at the site where the Confederates blew the heck out of the unfortunate ironclad.

Our second trek takes us on New Year's day through Cold Harbor, where Grant threw men like confetti at Lee's army. He wrote in his autobiography that Cold Harbor was his one regret. Men pinned their names on scraps of paper to the backs of their uniforms, hoping their bodies could be identified when the shooting stopped. Corpses were stacked for barricades, as Union soldiers tried to shield themselves from bullets that ploughed the dirt fields without ceasing. We just returned from there, and as has happened each time my feet hit the ground at Cold Harbor, I feel uneasy. There's something about the place that forces me to walk faster, get back to the car quicker. They're still there, the thousands of dead, and I honor their sacrifices, their horror, their sheer guts that forced them to their feet to run into a wall of sharpshooters when the command to do so bugled forth.

Every time we pull into the tiny parking lot, I remember what those men, dead so long ago, sacrificed to keep our country a union. I feel, through every inch of my being, a pale shadow of those long, awful days under a hot June sun.