Thursday, August 17, 2017

I'll confess...

This is a recycled blog! But recycling is good.  Here’s a little gem from August 5 years ago.

Finding Unexpected Stories within Books

In the September 2012 issue of The Writer, Martha Lundin reviews Michael Popek's book Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (Penguin, 192 pp, hardcover, $18.95.) What stories can be gleaned from items left behind when their usefulness as bookmarks has passed? He mentions photos, letters, cards, notes, poems, receipts, invoices, advertisements, and even official documents.

The review reminded me of my grandmother's Bible, a hardcover volume which she covered with a soft yellow chamois. How many times did I pop through the back door (our backyards connected with a beaten path where grass ne'er grew!) and find her sitting with it in her lap?
Amin's Bible

When my parents were both in a nursing home, but before they were willing to give up their apartment, I often walked through the apartment to be sure everything was in order. During one pass, I spotted the Bible on the bottom shelf of a table beside my father's bed. So the next time I visited him, I asked if I could have it. His reply was, "Of course! You can have anything you want." Being the only living child, I knew that, but out of respect for my parents, I would have touched nothing without their permission.

When I brought it home, I leafed through it, somehow sure that I would find something with a message for me. There were anonymous four-digit phone numbers jotted on the flyleaf, none of which I recognized. Between the pages lay cards, notes and newspaper clippings, but nothing jumped out at me and said, "She left this for you!" I'll admit being disappointed, even though I knew I really couldn't expect to find what I was looking for--whatever that was!

Still, after reading the book review, I'm tempted to go back and look again. Perhaps, unwittingly, she left me the idea for a brilliant story, even a novel. Who knows?

And perhaps the next time I'm in a used bookstore, I'll find a forgotten lottery ticket. Meanwhile, I'm going to suggested Mr. Popek's book as a purchase by my local library. Reviewers at rated it 4.4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, it's not in Kindle, but here's the link to take a look: Forgotten Bookmarks

What have you found hidden away between the pages of a book?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The hurrieder I go...

Tomorrow, August 15, is Relaxation Day--a day to “kick back and do nothing”. I considered, ten years ago, that retirement = Relaxation Day X Forever. Wrong.

That was before

·        the Small Person and the Wee Bear Cub
·        deciding to write for publication, including indie publishing
·        And, of course, the day-to-day tasks of keeping house don’t end with retirement unless one is prepared to live in a chaotic state.

Sage Advice

But the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” is true. We have to take some time for ourselves--time to “wiggle our toes” (See last week's blog on Wiggle Your Toes Day.)

Tempering the ‘daily grind’

I like to keep a schedule as much as possible--bedtime, getting up, taking time to start my day with morning prayer and devotions, taking care of household chores, checking/deleting emails, going to sites I frequent and taking care of business there, and then on to the daily projects whether it be writing or, right now, genealogical research. Maybe the latter is my relaxation in many instances. On the other hand, sometimes the writing/marketing becomes really hard work!
When I know I have a long day at the computer  ahead of me, I like to turn on the essential oils dispenser (peppermint and orange the choices du jour right now) and pop a CD into the player--classical works best for concentration. The best of both worlds--work and relaxation--come into play here.
Taking breaks is essential--whether to walk around, go outside for the mail, or stretch out on the sofa with my Kindle.
Notice I didn’t mention ‘social media’ as a relaxation technique. While I do check Facebook, mainly to post on my author page, and look at news headlines, these activities can be anything but relaxing!

Where’s the rally?

I find it interesting that nowhere in my handy-dandy (and very heavy!) tome, Random House-Webster’s Quotationary boasting thousands of entries on a myriad of subjects, has absolutely nothing--that’s right, nothing!--on relaxing/relaxation. And why is that, you ask?
I wonder if relaxing is a politically incorrect term. These days people scurry around frantically to earn enough money for lavish vacations. What’s the purpose of such? Is it not to relax? So why is no one talking about it?

The last word

I spent most of my adult life raising children, caring for ill and elderly parents, and earning a living. Sometimes when I reflect on those years, the word ‘frantic’ comes to mind.
Now I have that scarce--almost extinct--commodity called time. I want to use it well. So for me, every day is Relaxation Day, no matter what ‘work’ has to be done. It doesn’t matter how fast I hurry, life won’t get any longer. Or, “the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get”! I don’t know who said that--have heard it all my life--and it’s definitely apt.

It’s time to slow down and live.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A little back-to-school writing exercise

Originally published 8/18/09
This isn't a new writing exercise by any means. Lists of "firsts" proliferate in ideas for teaching children how to write as well as motivating adult creativity. Making a list is as good a place to start as any. You never know when the light bulb will come on, and there'll be a new story in the making!

Here's my list (in no particular order of importance!)

1.    My first trans-Atlantic flight
2.    My first day away from home at college
3.    My first baby
4.    My first pair of high heels
5.    My first year of teaching (and that one already earned me a tidy sum!)

So grab your pen and paper and start listing. You'll probably come up with more than five. And if you need more ideas, follow the links below.

Book: History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Recorded History by Samuel Noah Kramer available in paperback at

And, of course, there's the old standby: The Guiness Book of World Records

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Organizing on the cheap...

Browsing through old blogs looking for one I wanted to recycle, I found one on “Something for Everyone” posted as part of my “Resources for Writers” Series back in 2010. But just as I was about to nab it, I realized all the tips were out of date except for one, which I’ll repost here along with some new ones.

Organizing 101 on the cheap

  • Writers can be the most disorganized and also the most organized people around. Usually it’s somewhere in between. Here are some ideas which have worked very well for me. Old teachers never die…they just keep watching the back-to-school ads because they know this is the best time of year to replenish office supplies. On 8/8/2010, I posted the following: Now is the time to stock up on three-prong pocket folders cheap cheap cheap! I always watch the back-to-school sales and buy my limit. They’re perfect for organizing research notes, writing tips, market listings, and the thousand and one other things writers seem to hoard.  Stick a blank address label on the outside and specify the contents. Where to keep them? Visit your nearest Michaels or Hobby Lobby and look for sales on those pretty shoebox-size storage boxes. Put the cover on the bottom and stand the folders inside.

  • Speaking of shoebox storage, I try to hit the 5/$10 sales and bring them home to use in the study closet. They keep the shelves uncluttered, and I can find what I want without searching for half an hour!

  • Visit the Dollar Tree for these fantastic calendars. They are perfect for a notebook, but I generally keep mine attached to my desk with those stickies that come off without removing the finish. I removed the calendar from the one on the right and replaced it with a weekly planner sheet. Using the monthly calendar on the left, I schedule each day within the planner on the right, including the names of the blogs I’m posting on M-W-F. A third calendar is my blog calendar and stays in the notebook which holds my very life! I try to schedule a month’s worth of blogs at one sitting and stay ahead writing them if at all possible. A fourth calendar is my “travel” calendar to plan trips, keep track of when I made reservations, what I paid, etc. If I were really on the ball--and someday I will be--someday--I’d have a marketing calendar to track promotions, payments, and so on. Since I don’t do a lot of that (and I should!), I can see the calendar coming in handy.

  • I repurposed two closet shoe holders for my desk. They hold all those things I need to be able to reach at a moment’s notice--rolodex, tape, stapler, hole punch, stamps, pencil sharpener--and much more.

  • The Dollar Tree also has these handy little organizers which fit right on my shoe-holder-shelves and keep them looking tidy.

I’d love for you to share your organizational tips with me and pass along mine to anyone who might find them useful!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Time to wiggle those toes...why?

Did you celebrate yesterday?

August 6, Wiggle Your Toes Day is about…toes! Toes are unique to a person and need airing and exercising. But that’s not what this blog is about. Read on.

What it’s really all about

When my two boys were growing up, they involved in so many activities that we seemed to stay in the car constantly shuttling from one to another. Finally, I said, “Enough!” Each boy could choose two activities, and the rest could take a hike. They seemed relieved to have permission to slow down.

Not long after that, I was talking to one of those mothers whose children must always be the best and in the forefront of all things. She detailed with great pride how many activities her children were involved in. I listened politely and then observed, “I think kids need time to lie on the top bunk and wiggle their toes.” She looked at me as if I’d uttered heresy. But I knew I’d made the right decision for my children and myself.

The never-ending story

Still, I lived at break-neck pace for years even after my boys grew up. Still working, now responsible for ill and aging parents who lived several hundred miles away, I juggled trying to earn a living with trying to do the very best I could for my parents. It wasn’t easy--but I’m not alone in having faced that mind-boggling dilemma.

Even after I retired, within two weeks I found myself the caretaker of a newborn three days a week. Not that I didn’t adore my first and only grandchild and glory in the very miracle of her existence, but I’d hardly had time to unpack. In fact, I was still unpacking, but that task became relegated to the hours she napped or the days I didn’t have her. After 18 months, I had to say, “Enough”, much as I’d done years earlier with her father.

Even now I sometimes have to give myself permission to lie on the top bunk and wiggle my toes figuratively speaking. I stay busy, but that busyness has evolved into a pleasant routine reminiscent of summers of my childhood: What needs to be taken care of gets done, and the rest of the day is mine with no apologies.


As of this week, with the final ms of The Legacy of Diamond Springs off to an editor, I’m keeping a promise to my oldest son--and to myself--to spend at least the next six months returning to long-neglected genealogy. Organizing, prioritizing research, doing the actual research will fill my days completely. I’ve written (seriously for publication) for ten years. Writing, rewriting, editing, deadlines, formatting what was indie-pubbed, marketing...time-consuming to the max.

 Now it’s time to take a break for the other pastime which I’ve always enjoyed.

It’s definitely time to wiggle my toes. 

In the Future…

I’ll still be blogging three days a week right here at The Word Place and continue to post the monthly “free reads” on my website. Publishing progress reports for The Legacy of Diamond Springs will be available. Expect some character profiles, the “story behind the story”,  and eventually a free chapter or two. The idea for an additional good news blog is still percolating, so stay tuned.


I still need you to weigh in on a name for the male protagonist of the aforementioned book. Go here for the original blog--more about the character and “what’s in it for you”!

Also visit my website for this month’s free read, “The Face of Love”.

Friday, August 4, 2017

A blinding light...

No clue when I wrote The Legacy of Diamond Springs, but it never saw the light of day--and it’s looking doubtful that it will, at least not by the end of August as I’d first hoped.
It’s been through at least 5 rewrites/edits, and when I finished the last one, I was ready to do the happy dance. Alas--midway through the first pirouette, in a blinding light from the sky I saw the weakness of the villain and knew he had to be replaced.
Did you hear the thump as I fell back to earth again?
But once I knew who really should’ve been the bad guy, it wasn’t a question of if but how do I weasel him into the story without making too many drastic changes. That’s ahead of me.
For now, I have the character profiled and an outline of his misdeeds and motives for same. Now it’s just a matter of settling down to take the icing from the cake, remove the top layer, and replace the filling--which is about as “easy” as doing what I propose to do with this novel!

If you haven’t weighed in on a name for the male protagonist, be sure to scroll back to Wednesday’s blog--read about him--and leave a comment with the name you feel is most appropriate. Heck, come up with your own name if you like!
Anyone who participates is automatically entered into a drawing for the six-book Penelope Pembroke Cozy Mystery Series from Amazon.


Meanwhile, don’t forget to visit my website for the August FREE READ
“The Face of Love”
Just click on the tab for I’ll tell you a story…
and enjoy

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why am I doing this?

What kind of author finishes at least five edits/rewrites and then decides to change the villain--requiring yet another rewrite within the “finished” ms? Not sure what words best describe such a person, but they all apply to me!

Here’s your chance to weigh in on another change:  the male protagonist’s name. Here are some facts you should know about him:
·        an award-winning investigative reporter for Behind the Story Magazine, a reputable publication with worldwide circulation
·        34, never married, only one serious relationship which ended when he didn’t want to settle down and quit traveling for the magazine
·        grandson of British diplomat in Italy who retired there and died, but his wife (the character’s grandmother) lives there still and has been a big influence on her grandson’s life
·        British mother met his father while “on holiday” in the U.S., fell in love, and stayed on
·        father was a newspaper editor who enjoyed acting in community theatre productions--died with a stage light fell on him when the character was 11
·        mother never remarried, returned to school, earned teaching degree, now works part-time as a travel agent--they have a close relationship
·        good manners but not afraid to be aggressive in pursuit of a story
·        ethical--won’t write a story that would adversely affect an innocent person
·        not cynical but doesn’t blindly trust people either
·        loves his job but thinks about a home and family more as he gets older
·        from the North--a damnyankee as he refers to himself when working in the South

He started out as Tor Whittaker.
He became Dirk Benedict
Now he’s Kelly Whitney

Does he look like a
or someone else?


Offer ends September 1, 2017