Sunday, September 28, 2014


I have decided writing is like one of the memes we often see on Facebook:

What Readers Think We Do:  Sit in a spacious, color-coordinated office plunking away at the keyboard while drinking the latest brew.  Dash off the occasional side note to our Personal Assistant so we need not trouble ourselves with mundane chores.  Ain't nobody got time for that.

What We Really Do: Try to find our way to the computer stuck in a closet through a narrow aisle carved out among stacks of rejection slips, unpaid bills, moth-eaten manuscripts with sticky notes hanging out the sides, cast-off socks, slung-off bras (if you're female) and coffee pots that no longer work.  Occasionally tripping over the dog or cat that has taken up residence in your closet/office because they can't find you anywhere else.  That's your Personal Assistant.

What Readers Think We Do:  Glance up at neatly arranged poster boards to study color-coordinated stickies (more stickies, can't live without 'em) that Spell Out the Plot, Give Us Pacing, Fill in Plot Holes, Map Out Plot Twists and lead straight to the Happily Ever After.

What We Really Do:  Peer, bleary-eyed, at the same damn manuscript we peered at the day before that still has a developing plot (at least we hope so), a sagging middle, plot holes like Swiss cheese,  and an ending that makes you consider...well...ending it all.  Sort of like a fatal disease without painkillers.


Now, where was I?  Oh, yes, the writing process.

This creative process is like entering uncharted, deepest space where No Man/Woman Has Gone Before. There is no road map and the stars are never in alignment.  You can't file a flight plan because a) you have no idea in bloody hell where you're going, and b) this journey can commence as early as 3 a.m. or as late as midnight.  Along the way you may encounter the rare Exploding SuperNova which gives you the Happily Ever After, and this makes the perilous journey worthwhile.  More commonly you will find Deepest Space which is both black and blank, stardust which is pretty but does not fill in plot holes, and the occasional Black Hole that sucks you into a time warp.  If you are unfortunate enough to encounter one of those, you will emerge unable to remember what day it is, where you put the car keys, or the names of your children.

And this brings us to a final point:

What Readers Think We Do: Go to the mailbox only to remove juicy royalty checks mailed by our  publishers.

What We Really Do:  Go to the mailbox hoping there may be a $50 check.  Go to the mailbox to remove bills--lots and lots of bills.  "Don't Give Up the Day Job" was written for writers.  Many of our books have been pirated for free downloads by sites as various as Free Reads R Us or Porno with a Freebie.  If we had the money to pay a Personal Assistant we would undoubtedly assign them the endless, time-robbing chore of mailing takedown notices.  It is endless because as soon as you take down one, your book pops up on thirty more, some of which have simply taken another name and are now Demon Downloader.  We write at 3 a.m. or midnight because that's the only time we have to write. What you are reading are our hours stolen from sleep.  We keep our jobs because a) we like to eat, and, b) we have a huge vet bill because the dog had to have his leg pinned after we fell over him for the 19th time. Our own legs may have been pinned, too, but at least there's insurance for that, if we can keep the premium paid.

Sigh.  It's nearly 8 a.m. and I've been writing since 5 a.m.  I had an exploding SuperNova while walking the dog--the one without a cast.  I hope I've cleared up a few key points about the writing process.  It's not really all that mysterious.  You just have to be crazy. 




Friday, July 11, 2014


It’s arguably safe to say the majority of people reading this are on Facebook.  Recently (recently?), I have noticed a trend towards pessimism, doom and gloom and…well…disagreement there.  More lighthearted individuals have even accused me of fostering this myself, so I gave it some thought and have realized how we can end it. 

Just Be Happy.

It’s so simple.  I am forever indebted to those who pointed out that by maintaining a positive attitude we can cure all ills.  It’s true, you know.  If every person in this world, maybe even this universe, would just Be Happy—we could make it all right.  If everyone was happy, for instance, how could they have wars?  What If We Gave A War And Nobody Came?  How could they come if they were all at the local coffee house, trying out the latest brew?  Or if they were in the garden, watering flowers.  “My flowers are beautiful this year” is ALWAYS appropriate.

And so, taking a line from Jonathan Swift, I would like to make a Modest Proposal.  Everybody Be Happy.  Post nothing but positive, glowing and uplifting ideas on Facebook.  For God’s sake (yes, you can say God, we can’t fight over that any more), be cheerful.  Facebook is a worldwide media and if this catches on, you never know, we might even bring about World Peace and Harmony.

Let me give you some ideas of appropriate material:

Response to birthday posts: "Have a wonderful (and/or blessed, depending upon religious convictions) year!"

Response to death in the family:  "He or she is with the angels now."  Or, if angels are not their thing, wishing peace is usually comforting.  Alternatively, if the post is about a family pet, they are at Rainbow Bridge.  Do not weaken and say they are the Rainbow Bridge waiting for you, because that implies someone will die someday and be with the angels.  Just leave it at, “They’re at the Rainbow Bridge.”

Response to war posts: "It is far away from us and I am going out for coffee."

Response to illness posts: "I am very sorry to hear that, but I know the doctors/shamans/drugs/natural cures/power of prayer will make you better."

Response to There Is A War on Christmas/War on Christians/War on Women:  "It is far away from us and I am going out for coffee."

Response to Political Division:  "If everyone will just smile and shake hands, I’ll go out for coffee."

Whatever you do, do not try to share your experience or knowledge with people because they will take that as negativity.  We are all adults.  They will find their own way.

You get the idea.  Some people may find it too boring to post and do something else, which will impact Facebook.  But think of the time and money they will save not having to censor posts, take down pages and otherwise fight all negativity in the world.  We can help!  Be brave.  Be bright.

I’m going out for coffee now.  And leaving you all a nice flower.  What can it hurt?  :)

Saturday, March 9, 2013


This is a feel good story.   As usual, it began with me snarfing through Facebook.  I knew I would get into some kind of trouble there; I always do.  And sure enough, there was trouble in the form of a picture of a poor, terrified puppy staring out at the camera through cyclone fence.  She was standing on a 2x2 piece of metal that was all she had to stand or sleep on.  And this was at a so-called humane shelter. 

You're not feeling good so far, I know, but wait.  It gets better.

I got the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that I was about to do something I knew I shouldn't...but I knew I would.  It always starts out that way.  I'm gritting my teeth and muttering, "You idiot" at the same time that I'm emailing.  Always.

I emailed the rescue group working with the shelter, saying I fostered for a rescue and would find out if they would pull the puppy from the shelter.  It was only a little bit of a lie.  I was thinking of fostering for the rescue group.  Well, it's only a small step between thinking and doing, right?  It doesn't take long if you can type fast and I can type really fast when I want to.  Almost as fast as I can lie.

I emailed the rescue.  Would they be willing to take this puppy?  I would foster her for however long it was necessary.

Sometimes people sense when you're having a weak moment.  The rescue said yes, the rescue group said, "Thank God," and some good people donated to pay puppy's way out.  Her name was Kipsy, she was two months old and weighed 8 pounds.  Just a nugget.  They also said she'd been trembling with fear the entire time she had been in the shelter.  I would have, too.  That shelter gives the dogs only a three day stray hold and generally dumps them in a gas chamber on day four.  I'll say no more about that part.

Five days and a rushed veterinarian visit later, Kipsy was loaded on a transport with many other dogs and driven seven hours through darkness and rain from her southern birthplace to an SPCA in Pennsylvania, where I picked her up.  I couldn't even put her on the ground for fear she would contract the deadly parvo virus to which she didn't yet have immunity, so I carried her in the dark and rain to a crate in the back of my car and drove a rather harrowing hour home.  My night vision isn't the best and it was foggy and rainy just short of sleeting.  It was also 4 a.m.  Well, at least there was nobody on the roads to hit.  To my amazement, when I went to take her from her crate Kipsy came straight forward into my arms.  And when I put her on the ground, before even relieving herself she threw herself vertically up my pants leg in the traditional puppy greeting.  This, I thought, was a good puppy.

Not an entirely healthy puppy--all ribs and skinny little legs and big sad eyes.   You can see that for yourself:

Things would get better, I told her.  And they did.  My big dogs, much to my amazement, made her welcome.  The cat was another story.  But although the puppy barked at him she clearly didn't intend him any harm, and the other dogs soon showed her the ropes.  She began to feel a little cautious hope.

Well, the food was pretty good, the couch was soft, the bed was even softer.  No more sleeping on a piece of sheet metal.  The dogs were friendly; in fact, my pit bull Tia took that puppy under her care like a mother dog.  It was funny as heck, because up to that point Tia had been the puppy.  But her maternal instincts kicked right in.  My grumpy old Labrador groomed Kipsy, licking the kennel smell patiently off her coat.  My hound tolerated her.   She discovered a yard full of toys, a refrigerator full of food and a really bad belly when that food disagreed with her.  Uh-oh.  Off she went to Dr. Ginny, who told me that my two month old eight pound pit bull puppy was actually a four month old twenty pound hound puppy.  Who knew?

Ten days of food, shelter, companionship and medication brought out the puppy inside that puppy, who nearly ended her short life in a gas chamber.  She was a happy Kipsy, rocketing around the house, leaping like a gazelle onto the couch, barking ferociously at everything and nothing in the yard.

Ten days in a house with somebody to love her.  That's all it took.  Today Kipsy met the person I think will be her new mom--somebody who saw her sad shelter picture on Facebook and got the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that meant she was going to do something she shouldn't.  She did, and emailed me.  I knew she was having a weak moment and...well...I pounced on her!  I'm just waiting for final approval from the rescue and then, probably next weekend, I'll take my now 25 pound little nugget over to Betsy's house and we'll have a trial run with her other dog.  And if all goes well, Kipsy should have a great life on a little farm with two nice parents and a Labrador sister.

There--don't you feel good now?


Saturday, February 23, 2013


It's contest time!

The Wisconsin Romance Writers of America's 2013 FabFive contest submission deadline is closing in on us. All submissions must be received by midnight Friday. 

Some of our categories have low entry counts this year. That makes your odds of becoming a finalist and getting your work in front of an agent or editor better than ever in this highly-popular contest.
FabFive is available to writers unpublished in book-length romance fiction during the past five years.

Self-published authors may also apply. Your entry must be limited to the first 2,500 words of your manuscript and must be submitted electronically. For an entry form and complete details regarding rules and eligibility, click the Contests link on our website:

Grab this opportunity for a critique of your work and the chance one of our final round judges may ask to see more of it.  In last years contest, agents and editors requested eight full manuscripts and eight partials from our finalists. 

Inspirational writers: We've established a new category just for you! 

Our fees continue to be among the lowest for contests of this type - just $18 for WisRWA members and $20 for all other entrants.
Deadline for entries is 11:59 CST, March 1, 2013. Categories are limited to thirty-five submissions each, so enter early to beat the rush.

Here's our lineup of categories and final round judges for 2013: 
   Historical: Amanda Bergeron, Harper Collins
   Inspirational: Natasha Kern, Natasha Kern Literary Agency
   Paranormal/ Fantasy/ Futuristic/ Time Travel: Latoya Smith, Grand Central Publishing
   Romantic Suspense: Katherine Pelz, Berkley
   Series Contemporary(Long/Short): Dana Hopkins, Harlequin Enterprises
   Single Title: Nalini Akolekar, Spencerhill Associates
   Women's Fiction: Paige Wheeler, Folio Literary
   Young Adult: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency 

- Joe Fraser, FabFive Coordinator (

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Valley Forge Romance Writers is proud to announce The Sheila Contest opens for entries on March 1, 2013

Fee: $25 for VFRW members, $30 for non-members

Deadline: April 12, 2013

Eligibility: all RWA members, published and unpublished, who have not published a full-length novel (40K words or more) in the category entered at the time of the contest deadline and within the past five years.

Entry: Total of 35 pages, including synopsis (not to exceed 5 pages).

Categories: Single Title Romance, Historical, Fantasy/Futuristic/Paranormal, Women's Fiction with Romantic Elements, Romantic Suspense, Young Adult.

Judges: Entrants will receive a detailed score sheet from four qualified judges, including PRO and PAN members.

Categories and Final Judges: Romantic Suspense – Katherine Pelz, The Berkley Publishing Group; Historical – Elizabeth (Lizzie) Poteet, St. Matin's Press; Women's Fiction – Alex Logan, Grand Central Publishing; Single Title – Emilia Pisani, Gallery Books; Paranormal - Megha Parekh, Grand Central Publishing; YA – Wendy Loggia, Delacorte Press/RHCB.

Top Prize: Certificates. First- through fourth-place winners will have their names printed in RWR magazine.


Friday, February 15, 2013


Last Friday night, I had a Snow Party.  It was snowing, beautiful clingy snow that draped itself on everything, making it look like Wonderland.  I made a pot of stew, baked bread, took out some nice crisp apples, lit scented candles and put on Celtic music.  Then my dogs and I had a Snow Party.  We were in our Happy Place.

Some nights aren’t so happy.  Those are the ones I spend online doing animal rescue work.  Occasionally I post results on Facebook or my blog, but I keep those posts upbeat—cute puppy pictures, dogs rescued or adopted.  People don’t want to see the seamy underside of rescue—the suffering and death—so for the most part I keep that to myself. 

Occasionally, though, you get a request you feel duty-bound to pass along.  A gruesome photo of animal abuse came in with a request to share, because it was the only photo of the incident that showed the faces of the perpetrators.  Authorities are finding Facebook one of the most effective tools for tracking these monsters worldwide, so I posted it with a request that anyone knowing their whereabouts contact police.

A couple of people responded negatively, one demanding that I remove the photo and another asking if there wasn’t another way to contact the “right” people. 

Like the majority of writers I don’t believe in censorship, and we—collectively--ARE the right people.

Once upon a time, you looked at the Most Wanted list at your post office.  With the world made smaller by travel and technology, social media sites are the new post office.  There’s no going back to the good old days and they weren’t good.  Those pictures only showed the most wanted criminals—people who had hit the end of the road—people not stopped at the point where some of them were “only” torturing and killing animals, before they had moved on to bigger game.  That bigger game is us.

We had a clear illustration of this in my community. On an abandoned railroad track behind my property, someone began leaving carcasses of farm animals. They had not died a natural death.  Old stockmen shrugged it off.  Farmers were just dumping downed animals, they said.  But two of us with medical and psychiatric training became seriously alarmed by what we were seeing and called the state police.  They did as much as they could in a rural area, but within a short time we had the reports I was expecting.  A woman was assaulted in her own yard; fortunately, passing motorists came to her assistance and her assailant made his get-away.  We assume it was the same man who later exposed himself to two women walking their dog in a county park.  The dog attacked and once more he escaped. 

Was I surprised?  No.  THOSE WHO ABUSE ANIMALS ABUSE HUMANS.  Usually their targets are the most vulnerable:  women and children.  Thank God we have had no incidents involving children.  But with events like Sandy Hook fresh in our minds, how can we ignore threats to our society?  There were four men in the photo I posted.  How many wives, girlfriends, pets and children are at their mercy? One abuser previously apprehended through Facebook photos worked in security.  The man was carrying a gun.  His three-year-old child was in the photos, watching everything.  What would you do to stop a thing like that?  What should you do?

I love Snow Parties, my blog and Facebook page.  I visit pages of friends and acquaintances on Facebook and they are often delightful, visually appealing and creative spaces with wonderful photos, philosophy, poetry…cheerful and charming pages.   They are Happy Places.  Even if I don’t actually know those people, I  envision them as nice, decent women who nurture families, take meals to shut-ins, read to children at libraries, do the myriad little things that form the weft and warp of our society.   I can understand why they are so distressed by a graphic photo and ask if I can’t make it go away.

No.  I can’t.  I respect the rights and feelings of those who do--who can block or hide my posts--and not for a moment do I underestimate their importance to our decent, civilized society.  They are decent, civilized people and we sorely need them.  But we need other people, too.  I can handle the tough stuff.  Not to do so, at its worst, invites the sort of disaster represented by Sandy Hook.  Everyone looked away until it was too late.

We must each of us do as our conscience dictates.   I like Happy Places.  But, Heaven help me, I can’t live in one.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Did you ever wonder how life could be for a puppy dumped at a high-kill-rate gassing shelter, if the puppy makes it out alive thanks to the tireless efforts of rescues?  If the puppy is adopted? 

Well, my puppy thinks it's not a bad deal.  Here, I'll let you read her diary:

Crack of dawn.  Wake up with Mom and my dog and cat friends in big bed.  Walk on Mom.  Get belly rubs.
Pee in the yard.  Sniff everything.  Every-thing.
Breakfast!  (My breakfast, Mom’s breakfast, cats’ breakfast.  My friends’ breakfast if I can sneak it in.)
Long walk.  Pee twelve times.  Sniff everything.  Every-thing. (If it’s Sunday or snowing, long run in the pasture with my friends.  Even better.)
Chew bone while Mom walks my friends.  This will take a while.  They pee twelve times each and sniff everything, not quite as well as I do.
Mom back.  Mom looking funny.  Mom takes blood sugar.  Says we wore her out.  Mom eats second breakfast.
Help Mom work on computer.  Or she might get in the car to go to work.  Either way, long nap.  Probable chew bone when she gets back.
Pee in yard.  Sniff everything.  Every-thing.
Lunch!  (Mom’s lunch.)
In office while Mom works on computer.  Red squeaky toy drives Mom nuts.
Pee in yard.  Sniff everything.  Every-thing.
Short walk.  Sniff half of everything.
Tea time.  Don’t like tea.  Like biscuits.
Nap time on Mom’s bed, with or without friends.  They seem a little tired of me, especially the cats.
Pee in yard.  Not too much sniffing because next comes—
Dinner!  (My dinner, Mom’s dinner, cats’ dinner, my friends’ dinner.)
Cuddle time on couch.  Belly rubs.
Where is red squeaky toy?  There it is!  Drive everybody nuts.
In computer room with Mom.  Switch to blue squeaky toy.  This doesn’t improve things, so I get to--
Pee in yard.  Make up for time lost not sniffing on previous trip, unless I smell a bear or coyote, in which case—
BACK IN HOUSE!   Love my Mommy.  Mommy will protect me! 
Big bear-hunting hound, Mayhem, goes in yard.  “I’m sorry I stole your food!”  Love Mayhem.   Mayhem will protect me!
Whew.  Whatever was there is gone.  They don’t like Mayhem even though Mom never lets her really hunt bears.  She likes them so much she tries to climb fence, but it zaps her.
Biscuits.  Bed time.  Curl up against Mom.  All is well.