Thursday, May 31, 2012


Such a loaded-for-bear word. What woman doesn't tremble at the thought of reconnecting with the past? Fortunately, there a few brave souls in my college class who are willing to show up for our, ahem, umpteenth, reunion this weekend. We're a tad bit older, but who cares? We've so much more to share these days than class notes, campus gossip, and boy friend, or the lack thereof, reports. I truly believe women get better as they get older, and we certainly have in my class of overachievers.

Attending a women's college was not in my plans. However, my freshman year at the American University of Beirut was blown up, literally, by protests on campus, a fire that took out the Registrar's Office, wars, and political upheaval. Hollins College took me in, primarily, because my mom was an alum. I though I'd landed in hell when I hit Roanoke, and this is from a girl who hid under her dorm desk as the Israelis bombed the Beirut airport. I was getting out of Hollins, Virginia, as fast as I could.

Wrong. With a campus packed to the gills with a cool group of women, the college hummed with intellectual electricity. Combine the two - smart women and great educators - and you have the makings of remarkable lives. I'm not so sure mine has measured up, but I'm not complaining.

My liberal arts education has stood me in good stead. Thank you, Hollins. Can't wait to get back.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I love it when a book I sorta outlined ages ago jumps into my head, out of the blue, and demands some immediate attention.  This happened to me a couple of weeks ago, and in re-reading the synopsis, I thought, "hmmm, not half bad. Pretty interesting, actually."  From me, that's high praise. 

Pulling out a fresh notebook, I started to play with the story, and suddenly, I knew what the story needed.  A mystery.  Initially conceived as a work of women's fiction, I sensed it needed an extra kick in the rear to take it a notch higher.  The mystery element was perfect.

But how to work in a mystery in a story primarily about relationships?  Again, the solution was obvious. The structure of the mystery could undergird the relationships.  I wanted to begin writing, but life got in the way.

Yesterday, life played outside while I wrote.  A first chapter is seldom easy, but in my case, it was like finding gems in a bushel of words.  They came so quickly, I didn't even realize I'd been at my keyboard for several hours.  I love it when that happens, the first rush of meeting new friends and enemies, new places, new problems to solve.  The last chapter came to me as I was writing the first, so I have my goal.

Now if I can just keep it going!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

My father always said that the military was used when politicians failed. I'd like to use this as a call to elect the best people as our officials, those who decide when to call in the guns. Arrogance, ego, self-will, anything less than the purity "of Caesar's wife" will not be tolerated in those who hold the sacred trust of our elected offices.

This Memorial Day, let us resolve to diminish the number of graves in our national cemeteries by voting for people who take military action so seriously, it is a last resort.

My uncle, Robert Batten Dunham, is one who lost his life to a "military police action" in a foreign land. Today, that war is still ongoing.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


How could it go wrong? Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights, Taylor Kitsch and Jesse Plemons of the cast of FNL, and alien invaders. Yes! Add some great special effects, a real vet with metal legs in a hero's role ("I got this," says Mick as he faces down the alien monster), and my beloved and I had a great time. So some parts don't make sense (live bombs on the USS Missouri?), who cares? This is a movie-movie, with heroism, explosions, a love story, gutsy gals who kick ass (Rihanna? Really? Wow), and huge stakes, the survival of mankind. The story line follows the "make it worse" credo when it comes to the alien invasion, and we ate it up. So go! Ignore naysayers. Have some fun. You will, I promise.

We're trying to knock off some of our to-do list over the long weekend. Thankfully, the race in Charlotte gave us an excuse to sit. Kasey Kahne finally proved he deserves his seat with Hendrick, and I slept through the middle of the 600 miler. Awful coverage by Fox, but the race really is too long.

I may hide the to-do list tomorrow and pull out the Friday Night Lights DVDs and pull a marathon. Best thing that ever happened to TV. Except for season 2. Will skip that one. The rest are about relationships that seem so real, you would bet money you knew these people.

Everyone, fly your American flag tomorrow. Remember those who gave all for our nation. Say a prayer for peace.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tweet Me

I get asked quite frequently why I like Twitter, while Facebook leaves me cold. Easy. It's short. Doesn't take much time. I don't have to interact, be friends, respond, or do anything at all if I don't want to. Like most Nascar fans now, I follow fav drivers (Brad Keselowski is a Twittering rock star), and people who "get" Twitter, like DeLana Harvick and John Daly.

As a writer, I check in with Publisher's Weekly, the Library of Congress, and assorted editors and publishers. Most provide links to the most up to date news and interesting blogs and articles about the biz. I learn stuff that could take months to filter down the food chain to the lowly author. For example, right now something odd is happening with Avalon Books. (Thomas Bouregy & Co.) If I wished, I could Tweet about it and alert any writers following me to keep their manuscripts in their drawers until the real story comes out. Unless you're on the private list for Avalon authors, you wouldn't know. Twitter opens up the dissemination of information quickly and concisely. And I can control who follows me easily.

So I guess the short answer is, Twitter is fast, easy, and my kind of shorthand. 140 characters, that I can handle.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shame in Virginia

I'm truly embarrassed to be a Virginian. Once a Commonwealth of revolutionary ideas and progressive thinking (the American Revolution, anyone?), it's now a bastion of old white men who think they can keep everyone in the 19th century.  Don't get me started on the segregation  or sex laws that were on the books until recently.  Or the recent anti-abortion state law our milquetoast governor signed.

However, today records a truly low point in our recent legislative history. Our Republican controlled government has rejected a gay prosecutor for a general district court judgeship. The obvious reason is: he's gay.  Openly gay.  Former fighter pilot.  By all accounts, a really good prosecutor.  As a former defense lawyer, I'd oppose his appointment simply because he's a prosecutor, and I'm tired of prosecutors on the bench.  And that's the only reason.

A judge needs an even temperament, the highest ethics, good legal chops, and the ability to keep control in the courtroom. I'm not aware that being gay disqualifies you from possessing any of these characteristics.

For shame, Virginia. 

Friday, May 11, 2012


Not the color, but the plant. I've just spent an hour attacking it, insidious, wicked plant that it is. Don't let those cute blue flowers fool you. It'll take over your garden, your yard, your house, if you let it. Nothing daunts it, not even the green worms from hell, who couldn't be bothered to munch on it when there were lilacs and azaleas to decimate.

As I jerk, clip, and dig at the periwinkle, I'm thinking, as I'm wont to do, about writing. First I'm working on a difficult character in my head, wondering if I'm being fair to him, and that leads, of course, into what do you do with the book at never ends? Like the groundcover I'm trying to eradicate, the story just wanders on and on, and you're wondering if you've created a nightmare and not a novel. The leap in logic here may have escaped you (don't worry), but it all came around in my head as I realized the character who had been worrying me was unnecessary to the story. He's getting ripped out by the roots just as soon as I can get him out of there, because he's just more ground cover.

I call this a successful morning. Clearing the garden beds and the WIP of extraneous bits at the same time is a good day's work.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Things I wish I'd known

I've been running Florence and The Machine's latest CD, CEREMONIALS, at full blast wherever I drive these days. The steering wheel actually shakes.  If you don't know Florence, and you're a Gracie Slick fan, check her music out. Killer vocals, lyrics you won't hear anywhere else, and a drummer who makes me feel tribal.   Who says old chicks can't rock? Not Florence, me, lol.

I was thinking the other day about all the things I know now about the writing business that I wish I'd known years ago.  I'd just read Ann Voss Peterson's blog on Jon Konrath's blog site, all about how she had to stop writing for Harlequin (the 6000 lb elephant of romance publishing) because she couldn't pay for her son's braces, much less make a living, even though she churned out multiple books a year that sold well into six figures. The advance and payout (i.e. royalty) structure was such that HQ authors must keep a day job, no matter how many HQ lines they've contracted for multiple books. 

That's something I wish I'd known. Back before I realized I'd never have the HQ "voice," I thought HQ was where you earned your stripes as a disciplined writer. It may still be that place. But I knew, from how hard some of my friends were working to basically just survive as writers for HQ, that it was a cold and master/servant relationship when it came to the business side. HQ has some of the best editors in the business. These people know what they're doing. But that's totally different from the contract side of the deal, and HQ just doesn't have to give anyone anything in writing it doesn't want to give her. And they don't, unless you're Nora Roberts. (Who got her start there.) I thank my lucky stars I never signed a contract with HQ. I've made my own share of contract goofs,but none that scary.

One of the smartest (and that was by accident) things I did was get a sample publishing contract from the Author's Guild before I even read my first contract from Walker & Co.  Every new author should be a member and get that contract and keep it handy when it's pen and ink time.

More later. Long blogs bore me, so I assume they do you, too.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Hurrah for the Upstarts!

My man, Bad Brad Keselowski, outwitted Kyle Busch to take the flag at Talladega! Yes! As Kyle Petty said, Brad outdrove and outsmarted the competition. Brad's talking like a pro on camera, and it's fun to watch him make his name. Bet Hendrick wishes he could have kept him in the stable back when Brad was running for Junior Motorsports in the Nationwide series.

Talking about upstarts, Young Adult books are definitely taking over from adult fiction as my fav reads. I'm starting BOY 21 by Matthew Quick, written in an athentic, low key style that sneaks in stellar writing like "The liquor on his breath was dank and smelled sharp as a razor." Ostensibly, it's a basketball story, but of course, it's much more. Good book.