"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Playing favorites

 I got it into my head over this holiday season to watch as many versions of A CHRISTMAS CAROL as I could find and make a list of favorites. I don't know why I get these wild hairs, but I did. My criteria was simple: the version had to be available on a channel/service that I already had, and had to be free.

I mean, I wasn't going to go overboard on this thing. It was a fun way to relax.

The versions I ended up watching, listed by date and Scrooge, were:

1. 1938, Reginald Owen

2. 1951, Alastair Sim

3. 1954, Frederick March (an episode of the TV show, SHOWER OF STARS)

4. 1979, Henry Winkler (AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL)

5. 1983, Scrooge McDuck (animated)

6. 1988, Bill Murray (SCROOGED)

7. 1992, Michael Caine (Muppet version)

8. 1997, Tim Curry (animated)

9. 1999, Patrick Stewart

10. 2009, Jim Carrey (animated) 

In my long life, I have also seen the George C. Scott version and the Mr. Magoo one. I left them off this list because I didn't want to pay to see them again and I already had ten films, which seemed like a marvelous number.

After watching different characters in different clothing and different settings say the same words over and over, I found that, although I can put them into a list of Most Liked to Least Impressed By, there were three films that I would watch multiple times, and seven that I wouldn't bother with again.

So (not that anyone cares) here are my results:

1. 1951, Alastair Sim. This has been my favorite for a long time. It is creepy as hell, which I enjoy--for Pete's sake, it's a GHOST story! I WANT the dour, creepy vibe of the world of vile, bitter Ebenezer Scrooge. I WANT him to be as scared sh*tless when Jacob Marley shows up as Alastair plays it. And then, when he reforms, Alastair lets loose and becomes mad with joy. I don't care if he chews the scenery. He's a man who's gone through an incredible transformation in one night. He deserves a little fiber in his diet.

2. 1992, Michael Caine. The Muppet version is as sweet as Alastair Sim is sour, so why is it my 2nd favorite? Because the Muppets are so damned zany and the musical numbers are darling and upbeat, and then Michael Caine anchors the film with his gravitas. It's the only version that makes me tear up at the end, when Beaker gives Scrooge the scarf around his neck and Caine is teary, exclaiming, "A gift? For me?" 

3. 2009, Jim Carrey. This one surprised me. It's animated, kind of in the POLAR EXPRESS style. There's a bit of nonsense in between the Ghosts of Christmases Present and Future, involving being chased through London by a casket-carrying carriage drawn by magnificent black horses, but other than that, I liked the freshness of the dialogue. I know these lines by heart, and yet it sounded like I was hearing them for the first time. I'll take the nonsense in stride, especially if it includes horses.

Here are the rest, fallen away by miles from the top:

4. 1988, Bill Murray (SCROOGED). I love Bill Murray, but this was a little too grindingly mean for my tender heart. I do appreciate that Bill keeps his edge while he's being transformed.

5. 1983, Scrooge McDuck (animated). Yeah, it's simplistic and syrupy, but it's as comfy as an old sweater.

6. 1999, Patrick Stewart. Love me some Patrick Stewart, but I felt like the production was talking down to me, like they were telling me SUCH an IMPORTANT story and maybe they should explain just a LITTLE more so I won't MISS anything, seein' as how I'm an ignorant girl.

7. 1979, Henry Winkler (AN AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CAROL, TV movie). From the lighting to the music, it has "Made for TV" written all over it.

8. 1938, Reginald Owen. I just don't like this guy as Scrooge. Maybe it's the hair, or his disturbing smile. Sue me.

9. 1954, Frederick March (an episode of the TV show, SHOWER OF STARS). It's definitely the condensed version of the story. The best part is Basil Rathbone as Marley's ghost.

10. 1997, Tim Curry (animated). This is a GRANDMA GOT RUN OVER BY A REINDEER style of animation, which makes everything cheesy. Good for Grandma, but bad for Scrooge. Plus, in this version he's got a dog. Inconceivable!

Being a CHRISTMAS CAROL connoisseur for the month was fun. Maybe I'll pick something else to compare and contrast next year.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Glad Tidings, etc.

I make our Christmas cards each year, and each year I send them out, yes, in regular snail mail. A lot of people request them (I do write a killer letter), but even if I haven't heard or seen people in years, I send them a card. Why?

Because when I was a wee child, I watched my mother address TONS of cards every year. Then came the year when I heard her say, "We haven't seen these people in years. I'm not going to send them a card this year." Every year after that, the list dwindled, until she didn't send cards to anyone.

Coincidentally, their list of actual friends they saw all the time and did things with dwindled, too, until they didn't do anything with anybody and sat home instead.

I'm not going to be that person. My door is always open, even if I haven't heard from you in a while. And I'm sending the cards, whether you like it or not. 


Welcome to the party, pal

That’s a line from DIE HARD, and if you don’t think that’s a Christmas movie, we need to talk. Tis the season for Hans Gruber to plunge off the Nakatomi Building. Especially this year.

January 2020 held such promise. We had trips planned, I had a book to launch, there was so much to do and see. What did we get in March? A pandemic, raging fires, murder hornets and meth-gators. There’s probably a very disturbing version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in that sentence.

Travel this year was…well, you know how it was. We took a calculated risk in August and went to the Gray Eagle Lodge. Masks were worn, all meals were outside, and I got my first COVID test upon return—not because I’d been knowingly exposed, but because I might have been unknowingly exposed. It was negative, but the trip was positive.

We went to two weddings, one pre-COVID phase and one during the “take precautions” COVID phase, both for our nieces and new-nephews. The one pre-COVID was in Portland. It was back when life was normal, which is good because it rained that day. I mean…Portland in February, right? It was a lovely, fun-filled wedding and reception, and I treasure the memories.

The next wedding was held locally and outside. We had temperatures taken, wore masks, and there was no hugging, which was the hardest part. The venue even socially distanced all of the seating for the ceremony. It was another wonderfully fun wedding—how can any wedding be bad when you’re with loved ones? PS we love these kids.

Dale did his usual trip to Angels’ spring training in Arizona in March, which was shut down after a week. So far, he’s spending the pandemic doing yardwork, helping his mom, and golfing with his friends at a safe social distance.

I had an amazing year planned. First, I was honored to be presented with the Placentia Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2020. I won’t lie, it was going to be fun riding in the Heritage Day Parade. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I also published a new mystery, MURDER BYTES. The launch party was a blast (thank you so much if you attended!) and I had a calendar chock full of events…that all got cancelled. I did do a lovely virtual book club, and a podcast that will air in 2021. I filled up the days by going to the stables, writing another book, and running for library trustee again. (I won, by the way.)

My horses are still doing well. I managed to find a way to visit Frostie and Snoopy in Temecula and stay safe. As far as Dhani and showing, we went to two multi-day shows and two single-day shows, wearing masks, washing our hands, and kicking people who got too close. I mean, Dhani was well-behaved, but I can’t say the same for myself.

Marcus was thrown full throttle into adulthood this year, having to learn about things like unemployment and negotiating your rent with the landlord. I’m proud of his initiative to stay independent. He and his singing groups have just gotten back together, wearing face shields. It’s looking dire for the arts, but people who have the will to create don’t lose it because times get tough.

Gosh, I’d love to give you all some magical words to make this entire year feel better. All I can offer is the hope that next year we can look back at 2020 and say, “Yippee Ki-Yay, (you can finish the sentence)!”

Best wishes from our house to yours,

The Carlines


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

It's not courage

 Sometimes I get a thing in my head that won't go away until I find a way to do the thing, even if it's so outside my comfort zone I'd rather just not do the thing.

"Sometimes" happened recently.

I'm not a singer. Yes, I can carry a tune, but I have a narrow range, very alto. I sang in the choir from third through eighth grade, always the alto section which was never the melody. It felt like I sang the same three notes for six years. In high school when it was time to audition for choir, I just...couldn't. Didn't. Walked away from it and never looked back.

I had to start singing again when I was a waitress at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor but that was different because it was always "Happy Birthday" and everyone was singing along and nobody was in any kind of key at all.

My worst problem with singing is I tend to freeze when I'm asked to sing in public. Freeze as in, I can't even remember the melody of the damn song.

So when a friend of mine gave me an idea for a Christmas song about horse trainers (mine in particular, but it applies to all), I wrote it immediately and wanted to make a video but really didn't want to sing it myself. But there was no one else to sing it.

It doesn't help that my son is a marvelously trained and talented singer and I've listened to him sing with other trained and talented singers and I KNOW I am not trained, nor marvelously talented.

My son tried to give me a few tips on singing, which I tried to take to heart. He also helped me with the music. I'm still not a singer but the song is fun and I sang all by myself and released it to the public. It's not courage. It's just a thing I made because I had to.

PS, it may be on YouTube but I'm not so courageous as to leave comments on. Thanks, but the trolls can stay home!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Lessons learned...do I ever learn anything?

 Well, I did it. I got to the end of November having written over 57,000 words and recording the numbers faithfully in my NaNoWriMo account. Yes sir, I been there, done that, and the tee-shirt is in the mail!

I worked hard for those 57,000 words, often writing over 3,000 words a day. What did I learn from it all?

1. That I can write 3,000 words a day. Okay, I already knew that I can write copious amounts of words in a day when I'm under the gun, but I didn't know I could do it every day. It was like clocking in, doing my job, and clocking out.

2. That I am no longer afraid of "what comes next" in the story, especially the middle (aka The Muddle). All I need to do is let my characters start doing a mundane task--perform a chore, eat a meal, get dressed, etc. Soon, the plot is back on track, and sometimes a little something in that mundane task shines through as necessary to the story.

3. My ideal writing time is from 10 am until 3 pm. Before then, I am easily distracted. After then, I need a nap.

4. My ideal writing style is to write about 1,000 words, stop and record that I've written 1,000 words, take a peek at my email/messages, and write another 1,000 words. Rinse and repeat.

5. I am no longer afraid of writing 1,000 words of "what was I thinking" dreck. It is like a sculptor--I must carve out the basic shape and general angles, and then carefully, within the editing process, chisel the details.

I'm ever so glad to have tried and accomplished my first NaNoWriMo. Maybe I'll do it again next year. 

I feel like...yes, like a shining star!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

A tale for Halloween

Earlier this evening, I participated in HalloReads, an online gathering of some of the folks from the Southern California Writers Conference, a most unusual group. We have no official organization, no monthly meetings or dues or secret handshake--all we have are two conferences a year that form lifetime friendships. 

Everything my writer friends read was weepingly fabulous. Some horrific, some spiritual, some atmospheric, all leaving me to wonder what happens next. Such good writers. Such good friends.

I wrote a piece specifically for tonight's event. I didn't give it a title, but here it is:

* * * * *

Gillian poked her friend Catherine, jabbing her shoulder with one of her well-manicured nails. “Don’t mess this up for me.”

Catherine flinched but continued to wash her hands at the sink, watching in the mirror as young girls entered and exited the restroom. She splashed cold water on her face, patting around her eyes in an attempt to lessen the redness and swelling.

“I can’t help it, Gillie,” she said, retying her dark ponytail. “I don’t like horror movies. They scare me.”

“They’re supposed to scare you, ya big baby. That’s the whole point.” Gillian turned toward the mirror and applied an extra coat of lipstick. “It’s bad enough you still dress like you’re in grade school. Do you have to act like it?”

Catherine tugged at the hem of her Wakanda tee-shirt. “Sorry.”

Gillian rolled her eyes and pulled her friend outside to join the group. The pack of teens had gathered in an inconvenient clump in front of the theater door. Patrons pushed and excused their way in and around the traffic jam, but no one in the bunch saw any need to move.

“Sorry it took us so long,” Gillian said as she bounced up. “Cat had a hair in her eye. Took me forever to get it out.”

“Yeah, right,” Kyle said. “More like Scaredy Cat was having a meltdown.”

“God, Gillian, let’s go.” Allyson, a coltish blond, grabbed Kyle’s hand and dragged him down the street.

Everyone else peeled off and followed the pair, laughing, shouting, and jostling each other for space on the sidewalk. Gillian scurried to stay in their midst, while Catherine walked behind the crew, rubbing her hands. One of the boys, a tall gangly brunette, slowed to hang back with her.

“How’d you like the movie?” he asked. “Wasn’t it lit when the guy sliced that girl’s head off and she kept blinking and trying to talk?”

“Yeah, it was…lit.” Catherine looked up at him, thinking it was not lit at all. She glanced around, noticing the street for the first time. “Wait, we’re on Ash.”


“So we’re going past the cemetery.” Her eyes rounded and her hands squeezed tighter.

“Yeah?” The boy called up ahead, bounding forward. “Hey, we’re going past the cemetery. We should totally take a detour.”

“No!” Catherine shouted, then quieted her voice. “I mean, it’s dark in there. We’ll get in trouble.”

The rest of the group ignored her, except for Gillian, who turned around and gave her an evil glare. They ran ahead, shouting, while Gillian dragged her reluctant friend to keep up.

“Don’t embarrass me,” Gillian hissed.

“We can’t go that way.” Catherine stood, refusing to move. “I…I can’t protect you there.”

“Protect me?” Gillian dropped Catherine’s arm and pushed her away. “What kind of weirdo are you? Go home!”

“Hey, Gillian!” A short, dark-haired boy walked backward, laughing. “Ditch the loser and let’s go.”

The graveyard stretched out to their right, bordered by wrought-iron fencing with an entrance of arched stone. The primary path ran up to a single mausoleum, a Romanesque structure with the name Pantera across the front in large letters. Auxiliary paths sprouted left and right, leading past the tombstones and grave markers throughout the green grass that blanketed the space.

This was the largest cemetery in town, and the oldest. Dates on tombstones went back three centuries, and there was an entire section in the back where the stones were all etched in Cyrillic characters.

On overcast days, Catherine enjoyed strolling around the grounds and reading the inscriptions. But not tonight.

Six teenagers ran into the darkened cemetery. Laughter rang from the tombstones, flashes of light marking the selfies being taken.

Gillian took a step to follow and was grabbed by her shoulder.

“Please, Gillie-Bear.” Catherine hadn’t called her best friend that since they were six. “I’m begging you. Don’t go.”

Gillian wrenched her body away. “Forget it, Kitty-Cat. Go back to your childhood.” She ran into the cemetery, calling to the others.

Catherine stood under the arched entry, staring after her ex-best friend. Rubbing her face with the back of her hand, she strolled to the mausoleum, expectant. Soon she felt her skin grow thick with fur, and she licked at her paw with a rough tongue to smooth her cheek. Her spine curved and limbs bent, and her sacrum stretched into a long twitching tail. She always screamed when that happened.

“What was that?” Kyle’s voice was faint. The group was moving further into the cemetery. Further away from the entrance.

Yawning, Cat sharpened her claws on a tall silver-barked tree. Her long white fangs glowed in the moonlight. It was a pity about those teenagers, but she tried to warn them.

Now it was time to go hunting.

* * * * *

PS, This is what I get for watching a double-feature of HOCUS POCUS and THE CAT PEOPLE.

Friday, October 23, 2020

When you need a little motivation

 I'm currently writing the sequel to my fantasy that's already been written and edited and is being queried to agents far and wide. I've been writing this sequel for a long time--it seriously seems like I started it sometime in the Jurassic Age. I'll spare you the horrid details of starting, stopping, outlining, throwing out the outlining, making copious notes, yadda yadda and just say this:

You can't edit a blank page.


I decided to treat it like the first book, the one that I sat down and made up and followed wherever it took me. By August, I had a decent chunk of it. And then I had an idea...


November is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Seriously, it has its own website and gift shop. You sign up and promise to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You are encouraged to buddy up with other writers and keep each other pumped up and full throttle forward. Kind of like AA. 

"Hi, I'm Gayle and I'm a write-aholic."

I tried NaNoWriMo once before. Let's just say I did not finish and do not want to look back. But this time is different! This time I'm going to keep my promise! It feels like the only way to finish this book, so I'm motivated.

In preparation, I've been writing several days a week, to get my book into enough shape to get to "The End" by November 30th. I've been managing a little over 6,000 words per week so far, although November will require about 12,000 words in the same time frame. By the way, please send Advil and Aspercreme. 

I'm almost at the halfway point in the book (I did plan for about 100,000 words) and although the story is progressing and the writing is trotting forward, I feel like it doesn't look like I'm almost at the halfway point. It looks like I could either finish the story within two chapters, or write about 200,000 more words and still be wrapping things up.

This worried me A. LOT. Am I spending too much time in the mundane? Is this too simplistic? Should I toss it and start over?


Today I had a head-slapping realization: the story is fine, it's just not the story I thought I was telling. The characters are on the journey I put them on, but they are on their own path. My job is to keep up.


I'm both committed to and excited by NaNoWriMo. I'll have something at the end of November. I'll let you know what it is.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Acceptable loss

I had another topic in mind when I sat down to update this blog, all about writing the fantasy and querying agents and blah-di-blah-blah. But, hell, another of my writerly friends, Jean has died and she's the second one this year, along with my dearest Chrissie, and my childhood friend Mike, and 2020 sucks and I don't quite know what to do with all the feelings sometimes.

I need a room with a lot of pottery that I can throw against the wall.

Lacking that, I was reading through my writing prompts and happened upon this one that I know I wrote but don't remember picking out these words. It's like that sometimes--writing. You're scribbling along with great purpose and then you step into a dream.

Prompt: Write about acceptable loss.

What is acceptable about loss?

I lose my car keys--

   Unacceptable if I want to drive my car.

I lose my way along a road--

  Unacceptable if I want to reach my destination.

I lose a loved one--

  NO. Not acceptable, to never hear their laugh

  or feel their touch

  or inhale the scent that is only theirs.

  To be left with photos, things that are vulnerable to flood and fire and deletion from a cloud.

And yet--

Maybe one trip made on foot saves one piece of the planet.

Maybe the wrong road leads to new adventure.

And maybe the memories of loved ones ingrain themselves in my heart,

  my soul, so that I pick up where that one left off and make them a piece of me,

  like a beautiful patchwork quilt.

Loss is not acceptable. But I accept it.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Flash Fiction Prompt: After midnight

Flash fiction is a complete story that is super short. I think, in general, less than 1000 words (which would make it a picture, yes?) and just enough words to give it a beginning, a middle and an end. Hemingway's "For sale: baby shoes, never worn," comes to mind.

When given the prompt "After midnight," here's what I thought of:

* * * * *

She sat in Pete's recliner, a plaid and frayed and faded remnant of their years together. Pete had left her six years ago, not by choice but by a heart attack.

A cigarette sat smoldering in the heavy glass ashtray on her right, along with a glass of Cardhu. She didn't smoke and she hated Scotch, but sometimes she took a puff and a small sip and sat in Pete's chair, hoping he'd show up.

If he did, he wouldn't come by until after midnight. Pete was a night owl. Death had not changed him. She liked to rise with the dawn. They were mismatched, but managed to spend 40 years together, playing hide and seek with whatever they had in common, unburying their sameness like a treasure hunt, and disregarding whatever didn't fit.

Her eyes were as heavy as the ashtray and she felt them close with one comfortable sigh.

"Dollface, you waiting up for me again?" Pete asked.

She opened her eyes. "You know me--some nights I need a smoke and a drink."

His laugh was small, barely a chuckle, but she treasured it. She so rarely got that response.

"I been thinking, Hon," she said. "Maybe it's time I joined you."

He smiled and held out his hand.

* * * * *

Your turn. Hope you have as much fun as I did.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The wonder of putting pen to paper

A long, long time ago, I purchased a copy of A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves (my friend from the Southern California Writers Conference). It's a lovely collection of writing advice, along with a writing prompt for each day. I read the book, loved the advice, but couldn't bring myself to tackle the prompts.

Until now.

Judy has released a new edition of the WBoD, which got a great review in O.C. Writers*, so I dug out my old original, turned to January 1 and thought, eh, why not try these prompts? And why wait until January? 

So on August 17, I began with "Write about a Sunday afternoon."

I'm now almost through January and it is nothing like I thought it would be. I believed I'd turn every prompt into some kind of "Dear Diary" entry, where I would make each session about me and my life. That would bore me to tears and I probably could not finish the prompts under those conditions.

Instead, it feels like magic.


When I open the book in the morning, I look at the prompt, nestle into the pillows on the daybed in my office, and set the tip of my pen onto the paper. And I never know what's going to come out until it appears. Sometimes I am writing a diary entry. Some prompts end up as essays on life, spirituality, whatever. Fiction, both flash and pieces of the book I'm writing, come along. What surprises me most are the poems.

Who knew?

None of them are perfect, and they're not meant to be. They're the motor oil to my engine, the grease in my cogs, the lubricant that energizes my creative soul. They are my reminder that I write because it is a joy and a privilege to do so. 

Here's a link to Judy's book, via Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore (because we should support our indies): https://www.mystgalaxy.com/book/9781577319368

And here's a poem. The prompt is "Write about leaving."

It is spring and
    the tree puts out leaves.
It is leaving.
In the fall, the leaves turn color, turn brown
   They leave the tree.
I do not have leaves,
   But I extend the tender shoots
      Of who I am,
        Kindness and cruelty,
           Healing and pain,
             Creativity and sloth.
I watch the tree and do not kid myself.
My shoots are not infinite,
   And someday, I too, shall be leaving.

*Link to the review at OC Writers: https://oc-writers.com/2020/08/17/marissas-take-on-a-writers-book-of-days-a-spirited-companion-lively-muse-for-the-writing-life-revised-edition-by-judy-reeves/

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sometimes I do stupid things that work

 I suppose that makes them not-stupid things, but they feel stupid at the time.

I'm always on a quest for self-improvement, self-enlightenment, self-mo-bettering. I want to always be much muchier than I am. To that end, I read books and meditate and try stuff to add to my spiritual umph. 


One of the things I was reading said to say five positive things aloud before you go to sleep. This proved difficult because not only couldn't I think of five positive things when I'm exhausted and want to go to sleep, I tend to be focused on sleep and forget that I'm supposed to be doing anything else.


Serendipity stepped in with a blog (God help me, I forgot which blog it was) that listed TEN positive statements for writers. It recommended saying them aloud first thing in the morning, which was much more doable. I printed them out, set them next to my bed, and went to sleep.

In the morning, after I had done the must-do morning stuff (pee, feed the dogs, stretch my arthritic joints), I sat down, picked up the statements and read them. Aloud.

Let me state for the record that I felt distinctly stupid. Reading "I" messages out loud embarrassed the poop out of me. I even scoffed and argued with a couple. ("Today I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy. Oh, really?")

Regardless (and I don't care if they're adding it to the dictionary, irregardless is NOT a word), I kept getting up every morning and stating these ten positive statements aloud. I read them until I'd memorized them. Then I said them again.

After a few weeks, the damnedest thing happened: I started to feel their truth in my bones. Four of the ten began to live in me all the damned time! They were:

1. I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents. I was now actively choosing what kind of messages I let into my head and heart each day.

2. A river of compassion washes away my anger and replaces it with love. This completely changes my response to rude people!

3. Happiness is a choice I make every day. Remember that thing about choosing my own contents? Yep.

4. My body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, and my soul is tranquil. Is there anything else I need?

I admit, I still feel pretty stupid saying things aloud, even when I'm saying them alone, within the closed confines of my office. But one by one, they're all starting to "stick." I even added two more that I felt I needed to hear.


Before anyone asks, here they are. I apologize for not being able to credit the original author, but if anyone recognizes them, hit me up and I'll edit this! In the meantime, tailor them to fit your needs. And as always, your mileage may vary.

A Dozen Positive Declarations For Your Life

1. I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents.

2. Today I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy.

3. My body is healthy, my mind is brilliant, and my soul is tranquil.

5. I forgive those who have hurt me in my past, and peacefully detach from them.

6. My body is active; I love to move.

7. A river of compassion washes away my anger and replaces it with love.

8. I have been given endless talents which I utilize daily.

9. My writing is growing, expanding, and thriving.

10. Creative energy surges through me and leads me to new and brilliant ideas.

11. I do the work to take my natural talent to new heights.

12. Happiness is a choice I make every day.


Monday, September 14, 2020

Reflections on a horse show

I normally post horse stuff on Snoopy's blog, but I haven't figured out quite what to do about that, now that Snoopy is living la vida grande at the retirement home and horse shows involve my new horse, Dhani.

I feel like a traitor.

But this post is about more than just showing my horse. It's about perception and expectation and trying to see one tree when it's the forest that's in view.

I was excited to go to the Sun and Surf Circuit in Del Mar. I love Del Mar. Niki and I usually have a great time, the arenas are nice, and there's a couple of restaurants I enjoy (perhaps a little too much). Got my bags all packed by Tuesday night, loaded up Wednesday and off we went. I was showing on Thursday and Saturday, and Niki was showing on Friday.

On Thursday, Dhani was a little "on the muscle" -- that is, he wanted to GO. There were seven obstacles. Throughout each obstacle, I got him to the correct line, felt confident that we were doing well, then over the last pole, I'd hear "thunk." He hit it with his back foot. Every. Freaking. Obstacle. At the end, we had to walk through a gate, over a pole. He actually stood on the pole with one delicate hoof.

No, this does not count as an "extra." My placing and my scores reflected the go. Not good.

On Saturday, I vowed to do better. It was a horrible warm-up. I felt like my legs weren't pushing into him enough, I couldn't get him to lift his back and legs. He was clunking one pole in everything I tried. I was fighting for everything. I went into the arena on the verge of tears.

The first obstacle was my nemesis from Thursday, the gate with the pole. Dhani crept toward it, bent his body around the gate, picked his feet up oh-so-carefully, and walked on. I was heartened. For, like, 20 seconds. This time, I think he hit poles on four of the seven obstacles. The obstacle I worried about the least ended up looking sloppy because he kept taking a baby stride before going over the pole (also known as "chipping"). The obstacle that I had practiced and practiced, he acted like he'd never done before, so I ended up dragging him around it. By the time we got to the backup, he was sullen and I was teary-eyed again. We at least finished with a lovely walk over the last poles.

Niki tried to tell me that a lot of it was good, but I didn't want to hear it. She reminded me that this was my first show in the upper division, which I knew, but I discounted it. I was upset. 

"We aren't getting any better," I told her.

"Yes you are getting better," she said. "The courses are getting harder."

She reminded me of all the mistakes I used to make that I didn't make. I found my lines, I steered my horse, I was able to correct him in the moment. I kept him moving forward. I focused.

I took everything in that she was saying and thought, "Okay. Sure. But I still sucked."

Until I saw my score sheets. Yes, I was penalized for all the poles he hit, but I got a lot of plus points for doing some things well. My scores were high. I even got 3rd place from one judge!

My expectation was that, because I'd been improving at the lower level, I'd continue that trajectory when things got harder. That was incorrect. Harder means you start building again.

My perception was that I had done a horrible job on the course. That was incorrect, at least in the judges' minds. I'm always going to be more critical of my performance than anyone else is.

I was so focused on doing it PERFECTLY that I could not see past my mistakes. That was unfortunate, because I forgot to go out and have fun seeing what Dhani and I could do together.

What did I learn? That expectation is a joy-killer, perception needs time to cook properly, and you should always remind yourself of your intention before you dive into anything.

I feel better now.

Friday, August 7, 2020

The truth about parenthood

First of all, I'm hoping that my son never reads my blog. I don't want to burden him with this. 

A friend of mine posted a photo of his delightful young daughter with the comment that she's growing up. I still see her as a little girl, but I'm certain he recognizes a look in her eye, an expression that says, "I just found a corner and turned it."

He reminded me of some random writing--scribbling, really--that I'd done a few weeks before. I was sitting on the patio, having wine and listening to one of my son's YouTube live concerts. Here's what I wrote:

"I notice that wine makes me reflective and melancholy and given to fits of poignancy and sadness, but champagne makes me drunk on happy and giddy.

I love my son so much and he fills me with fear. I fear 'losing' him--that he's found his life as an adult and he's living it and there's only a tiny corner of it for me. And I knew that was the deal. I knew he was a treasure I wasn't supposed to keep, but it's so hard so hard to be a mom and have your world centered on them and theirs on you, and then the balance shifts and they are THEIR OWN. I'm happy and proud and sad and afraid. I'm all the feels."

This is what it's like to be a parent. Forget diapers and scraped knees and schoolwork and lessons. This is what it's like to get to the end of your gigantic usefulness to them, and become more of an advice columnist with an opinion they can listen to or discard. You think it's going to be relaxing and fun. It is, but...it isn't.

This is what it's like to follow this parental path, follow it all the way down to sea, to where they've swum beyond your safety buoy and are out there looking reckless but planting safety buoys of their own, after they've discovered what's dangerous. That ocean is huge, and you always fight the fear that you'll never be able to find them again, and that they're too busy swimming to look for you. 

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

I also hope my friend with the daughter doesn't read this. I don't think I want him to know just yet.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A big post from the little lady

I've had this post rattling around in my brain for at least a month, if not more, and I'm trying to make the words come out like Goldilocks' opinion of Baby Bear's stuff: juuuusssstttt right. We shall see, says my inner cynic.


This is a story of two of my friends, my separate interactions with them, and what it all means.

I have one friend who is as big-hearted as the African sky, but completely clueless when it comes to people who are not white and middle-class like her. Her family was that sadly rather stereotypical white family that naturally believed all the stereotypical crap about Black/Hispanic/Muslim/Jewish/Other families because they didn't have any contact with the Other to make them question their beliefs. Like I said, she is clueless, but she has a genuine fondness for all people, even when she puts her foot in her mouth.

When we are together, I get to educate her about the perils of being Black in America, even though I am white. I explain why Black Lives Matter. I explain having to teach my son how to survive a traffic stop. I explain why it frightens me to imagine calling 911 if we ever had an intruder because I don't want the police to assume the black guy is the burglar and shoot my husband. I describe being pulled over outside of Amarillo for doing 74 in a 70-mph zone and being Naive White Girl, arguing with the cop while Dale continually poked me in the ribs, whispering, "Shut up and take the ticket."

When she describes a situation that at least started badly for her, I ask her, "Do you want to know why that person thought it was offensive?" Her answer is always, "Yes."

Her heart and mind are open to change, even if it comes slowly, and I love that about her.

My other friend was not raised in that kind of bubble. She lived in a very diverse community and her parents always had visitors of other races, colors, and creeds. I will say, as an aside, that her family was more upper middle-class, but I don't hold that against her.

She told me a story of a woman in her volunteer organization who is the only black woman in a very white group. The woman expressed frustration that she was never listened to, she was talked over, that her ideas were dismissed, and ended with the statement that she couldn't help but feel this group was racist.

My friend described to me HER outrage at being called racist, and that she informed the woman she could not be more wrong. She listed all the ways she had not been raised to "see color" and would not stand for being called such an ugly term.

*Insert heavy sigh here* 

Basically, my friend invalidated this poor woman's feelings and made her feel even worse about the situation. It would not surprise me if that woman left the organization.

Which leads me to... *Insert big breath* declaring that I am a racist.

Do I feel like a racist? No. I see the differences in people and I love them, I applaud them, I want to learn about different cultures. I treat everyone as the individual I believe they are and not part of some collective "them." I'm still naive--I look for the good in everyone I meet. Of course, I also try to take Maya Angelou's advice, and believe who people are the first time they show me.

(Oh, and BTW, I don't care how you define your sexuality or who you love/marry/have sex with, as long as it's consensual. It's SOOOOO none of my business. Just give me your pronouns and I'll do my best.)

But I was not raised this way, and I must commit myself to accepting the label. Why? Because someday I will open my mouth and say something stupid. I'm guessing it will be out of ignorance (I can't imagine being malicious). Some phrase or term I got from my childhood and carried forward without knowing its meaning. Something that will make someone accuse me of racism.

And I don't want to immediately fight back and end the dialogue. I want to be able to apologize and ask how I can make amends. I want to do better.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 21, 2020


For years, I've read the book reviews on Big Al's Books and Pals blog. It all began one day years ago when I was avoiding work by surfing the 'net and found a polite but honest review of a spectacularly bad book. Not all books are gems, however, the author of the book began arguing with the reviewer in the comments. Soon other people chimed in with their opinions and the whole conversation got so hilariously awful that Big Al had to turn the comments off.

From that moment, I knew I wanted a review from one of the Pals.

I have since submitted every one of my novels to the site for review, always with a polite but clever note about the book and/or myself. That's seven books. 

Turns out, seventh time is a charm. On Friday, I discovered a new review on Amazon for MURDER BYTES. It was from Big Al's Books and Pals! It was a good review! Five stars!

Here is the link:

Color me over the moon. And a Friday review means it's the first one on the blog site until Monday. 


Friday, May 15, 2020

When worlds collide...in a good way

Sometimes you are doing two disparate things within the same time frame and they somehow magically pop together to make the third thing you're actually doing look not just doable, but achievable in a stronger, more bionic way.


If that makes little sense, it's because I'm so fired up, my words can't contain all the excitement I feel. I'm sharing this today because I have to tell someone to get these crazy-happy words out of my head so I can get to work. 

And I'm hoping you can read this and look for the same kind of inspiration and encouragement in your own life and work.

Let's start at the beginning, with the fantasy I've written. I wrote it back in late 2016, got it edited, and sent out queries. I am a gal who self-publishes, so that was always an option, but I had some very smart people convince me that a more traditional publisher would be able to offer me a larger fantasy audience.

I sent out 50 queries, got several requests for full, but everyone said no. I truly believe in this story, and I was thisclose to self-pubbing, but I took one more look at the comments several of the agents graciously gave me, PLUS I did a thing: I submitted the manuscript for a $99 BookLife critique. They all gave me the same notes. 

So I went back to the editing board, made substantial changes, and I've got it out with another round of beta readers. In the meantime, I was wavering, between submitting to more agents or just being the captain of my own ship. There's a lot to discourage me from submitting--I have to find new agents, plus I'm still not getting any younger and the years from query to book look like a century to me.

Then, two things happened:

1. I spent a fabulous evening talking to my pal Melanie (on the phone, like good social distancers). She completely lifted me up. First, she convinced me that what I have is YA fantasy, not just fantasy. New genre means new category of agents to query. Next, she pointed out that the eons it will take to get the agent, get the publisher, get the book on the shelves will be time well spent by writing the second and third books in this trilogy. 


2. I got Disney Plus and watched The Mandalorian. Not only did it give me an idea for a serious obstacle I had given myself in the second book (I now see it as a plus instead of a minus), but I watched the documentaries after, where the directors were all interviewed. Listening to them talk about the Star Wars movies was enlightening, from one director's excitement at having this "galaxy far, far away" where multiple stories could be told, to another director's explanation of the entire theme of the prequels leading into the original trilogy and the thread woven through all of them. Which is what I've been missing with this fantasy--the string that pulls it all together.


What a bounty! I have a better idea of the theme, which means I know where the story needs to go, and I have the luxury of developing it while the first book is out with agents. Also, knowing the theme helps in developing my query. It's not just a telling of this happens, then that happens. It's a specific tale of a universal idea.

I'd go on, but I need to get to work on all this. I hope you can take a lesson or two from my experience. Believe the universe conspires to help you, then look for the clues.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Murder Bytes is alive!

What a fabulous Valentine's Day. My creature...it's alive!

Amazon's got it here, so you can get it right now!


And don't forget the other Kindle deals today. FREEZER BURN and HIT OR MISSUS are free, and THE HOT MESS and A MORE DEADLY UNION are only 99 cents! Here's my Amazon author page, so you can pick and choose which ones you want:


With love,

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

It's almost here!

First of all, the latest book will be out and available in a mere 10 days! It is the 5th and final Peri Minneopa Mystery.

In this fifth and final installment of the Peri Minneopa Mysteries, Peri has had enough. She’s closing her business, marrying her detective boyfriend, and settling down to a life of ease–until her brother shows up, accused of a murder he swears he didn’t commit. Now she’s back in the thick of things, investigating the death of an engineer who may have been stealing techno-secrets from other companies. Her relationship with her brother is an icy one, at best, and she struggles with her ambivalence, as well as her desire to leave investigative work behind. Digging around in people’s lives is reasonably easy, but when the bullets start flying, will Peri be able to keep her promise?

Wait--what?!?! The FINAL?!?!

Calm down. Peri will return, along with her co-horts. Without giving away any spoilers, they will simply be returning in a slightly different series. It's all good.

In the meantime, MURDER BYTES will be released on Friday, February 14th. How will we celebrate the day? Forget the day--how will we celebrate the weekend?

1. FREEZER BURN and HIT OR MISSUS will be FREE on Amazon Kindle.



2. THE HOT MESS and A MORE DEADLY UNION will be available for 99 cents on Kindle.


In the meantime, you can pre-order MURDER BYTES and have it before anybody else. Just think, with a few taps of your fingertips, you could get five (count 'em, FIVE) books for $7.97, and spend your entire President's Day Weekend in blissful reading.


PS, MURDER BYTES, as with all my other books, is available in paperback and hardcover, too. They will also be available for purchase beginning February 14th. 

I can't wait!

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