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The Necessity of Dreams

June 22, 2015

lark“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.” Shirley Jackson

I can’t speak for larks and katydids, but I hope for their sakes, it is true for them. And I think it must be. How else could a lark sing so beautifully? Or a katydid produce its own uniquely musical sound?

I know it’s true for human beings (some more than others). I’m convinced that our dreams make us more human (in the case of other species, perhaps more lark-like or more katydid-like). Who knows? I do know that my life has been shaped by my dreams. As a kid, most of the trouble I got into was because of something I did (or didn’t do) when my mind was busy living a daydream. I remember overhearing my father say to my mother in absolute frustration, “I think she wakes up in a different world every day.” I must have been about ten or eleven at the time and I was not offended, just amazed. I thought, “How does he know?” I realize now what I didn’t know then: that other people wake up in other Library Statueworlds too. There’s a statue next to our library of a little boy lost in a book. And what is a book but a dream? Next to him, there is a stack of more books. More dreams waiting their turn.

Some even come true. I’m getting to live my favorite dream. I write books!

I think the universal need for dreams is the reason books are so essential. Writers share their dreams and confront their fears in the stories they tell; readers recognize their own dreams and fears and, in the process, we come closer to understanding an often insane world–even manage to exist sanely in it.

So – dream on.


June 14, 2015

Another perfect summer day. I love summer, love driving down the street and seeing flowers blooming in my neighbors’s yards, love having friends over for dinner on the back porch, love … oh, so many things. I SAM_0386think most people share my feeling about summer. It’s the season of freedom, freedom from the routine of school for the kids, freedom from the constricting clothing we have to wear in the winter. There’s no snow to shovel. On the other hand, there is grass to cut and summer is also the season of humidity and mosquitoes. Like every time of year, it’s a mixed bag of good and bad. All things considered, I’m grateful that I live in an area where we experience four distinct seasons.

Each time of year has its own seductive charm, from the spare elegance of a bare-limbed tree in winter to the extravagant bounty of a summer garden. Much as I love summer, spring and fall are my favorite seasons. They are less intense than the periods that precede and follow them, but to me, they are more interesting. Lacking extremes of heat and cold, the transition seasons are more gentle. They are also less predictable. Each day begins with a decisiSAM_0352on: T-shirt and shorts? A sweater and jeans? True, that’s a trivial decision, but if you don’t get it right, you’ll have an uncomfortable day. Even if you do get it right, there’s a good chance it’s just temporarily so. By mid-day, something as capricious and beyond your control as the weather may force you to regret your choice, maybe even change not just your clothing, but your plans.

Transitions in novels are like that too. These parts are more gentle. They are not the scenes of intense action, but those moments of introspection that follow or precede the action. They are less predictable, when readers wonder how characters will react to events beyond their control. They are the scenes in which the characters have an opportunity to change and grow. They have to make choices, some of which may be trivial in themselves, but they can produce unexpected results and lead to other, more difficult choices, which in turn, lead to … yes, more changes.

Transitions show the characters in their more reflective moments. It is here, in the periods of less intense action, that we get to know the characters, to understand why the choices they have to make are difficult for them. If they’re done well, we, as readers, agonize over the decisions with the characters and start to  identify with them.



I think of these scenes as bridges – where the writer guides the story from beginning to middle to end and, if they’re good at it, they make it look easy – as natural and inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

More Anniversary Thoughts

June 9, 2015

As you may know, I sometimes post on Classic and Cozy . Since the contributors to that blog all, like me, once wrote for Avalon Books, it seems appropriate that I share my thoughts about the tenth anniversary of my first published novel there too.

I hope you’ll follow the link and check out what I have to say. Leave a comment and you might win a free book.

In case you don’t have time to go there, I’ll repeat here my conviction that readers are an important part of the creative process and how much I appreciate your support and encouragement over the years.


An Anniversary – A Reflection on Goals

June 4, 2015

This month, June 2015, marks the tenth anniversary of the release of my first published novel, Put Out the LightPUT OUT THE LIGHT.

I’ll never forget the thrill of getting the call from Avalon Books.  As luck would have it, that happened on my birthday. Best present anyone ever received! I don’t remember what I said, but I know that a few seconds into whatever it was, I realized I was making no sense whatsoever. I took a couple of deep breaths and started over. I don’t remember what I said then either. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Avalon didn’t hold it against me and went ahead with the publication of Put Out the Light.

It was a major milestone in my life. I had reached a goal. When I started writing this book, I told myself it didn’t even matter if it was published. I just wanted to see if I could actually write a book – a whole book – so I put those first words on the page with only the vaguest idea of what came next. Finally, I finished the book. I had a story that, at least in my oinion, held together. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. I was enormously proud of myself, but only for a few minutes. It hit me that it did matter to me that the book be published, so I started down the road toward another goal – publication. A different goal. A different process and not an easy one. Nevertheless, after a long and not-always-pleasant journey, I achieved that goal and, since then, have reached a few more. One thing I’ve learned along the way is that a goal reached is not an end, but a beginning. There’s always more to the journey.

I’ll be sharing more about this journey in the days ahead. Next week, I’ll be blogging about it on Classic and Cozy, the blog written by some old and dear friends from my Avalon days. Here’s a link in case you’d like to check out what they have to say: I promise you’ll find it worthwhile. The current post is by Janis Susan May and is about finding the right length for whatever you’re writing.


May 26, 2015

2009Aug 006Remember our old friend, Marielena Zuniga, one of the original posters to Birth of a Novel? Well, she’s visiting again – with an announcement.

That’s enough from me. Time to step aside and let Marielena share her news. Okay, you’re on, my friend. 

My novel “Loreen on the Lam: A Tennessee Mystery” made the leap from ebook to paperback on May 25th through the wonderful publishers at

iPulp Fiction.

So what’s so special about having your book in print? For starters, you see the fruition of years of hard work. Your book now has an ISBN and people can find your novel and buy it.

Sure, ebooks are convenient. But a print book? Ah. You can hold it in your hands. Turn pages. You can bookmark or dog-ear it. You can put it on a shelf, spill coffee on it while reading it, go to sleep with it.LOREEN

And you hope that people buy and like your book because after all, this IS your baby. You hope they enjoy the story, relate to the characters, and laugh at and/or cry with them.

Speaking of those characters, let me introduce you to what reviewers are calling some of the quirkiest, yet most appealing folks around.

Loreen Thigpen, our heroine. She escapes from a Houston prison by stealing the tour bus of a famous country music singer so she can get home to her dying mama in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. Along the way, Loreen picks up three unwanted passengers, not knowing one of them is a hired killer.

Tilly Davis, a battered wife who’s a twit personified.

Buffington Splatt, a deaf-mute Bible salesman. What’s his story anyway?

Sister Sarah, a nun who adds her holy touch to the group.

And there are other unique characters, residents of Red Boiling Springs: Olivia McLoon, who has some mental challenges, and her brother Sammy, who has cared for her most of his life. And let’s not forget Loreen’s Grandpa Mac who has a secret past.

Does Loreen get home in time before her mama dies? And does Loreen’s mama tell her about her grandpa Mac’s secret? And who is the murderer on the bus?

Most of all, I’m hoping that readers pick up on the underlying messages. But if they don’t, that’s OK. The relationship between a reader and a book is personal. And in the end, the book is just FUN to read!

So, if you’re in for the road trip of your life, Loreen would love your company. You can hop on board the bus here to purchase the book through iPulp Fiction:

And thanks so much for taking time to support this writer and the writing community!

Thank YOU, Marielena, for stopping by. 

Readers, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Loreen on the Lam and can tell you it’s quite a ride. I hope you’ll check it out. I promise you won’t be bored.

Happy reading.

The Evolution of Libraries

April 15, 2015

Doylestown LibraryOne of the things I love about being a writer is having my books in libraries. Sometimes I visit them on my way through the stacks. How vain is that? I write mysteries and my last name begins with a C, so I’m on a shelf with Agatha Christie – something that never fails to send a tingle up my spine.

I can never resist reaching out to touch the spines of my books. If a book isn’t on the shelf–even better. Someone is reading my story! I feel an instant connection with that reader, though I’ll probably never know who it is. I send hopeful thoughts into the universe that they enjoy the book. Will my characters be as real to him (or her) as they are to me? What other books does this person read? I could go on (and on), but I’ll spare you.

I admit what I’ve just described is an ego trip, but my love affair with libraries is much more than that and began long before my books wre rubbing shoulders (spines?) with Ms. Christie. Some of my earliest and best memories are of wandering through what seemed to my young self like miles of books in a hushed, almost reverent, atmosphere. At least it was hushed when I was a girl. Libraries are livelier than they used to be–a good thing, I think.

The library in the small town where I live now has a section with puppets for the children to check out along with their books. No hushed reverence in that corner. Lots of giggles though. Sometimes the Library Statuelibrary experience leaves the building altogether. There’s an outdoor story program where a librarian travels to a nearby park with stories, songs, jokes and puppets. Participants are invited to bring a lunch and have a picnic. Another program I love is “Kids Reading to Dogs”. It’s not unusual to see a small person sprawled on the floor reading to a large and attentive Golden Retriever. Yes, the child is reading to a dog. The idea is that all kids really want to read; they all want to do well in school, but some of them need a little extra help–and a lot of practice. Reading to another person intimidates them, but they feel comfortable with a dog. There’s no need to measure up, no fear of judgment. To me, these programs are perfect examples of how libraries have changed as community needs and life styles have changed.

I was talking with one of our librarians recently about the changes she’s seen in her career. One thing is that the number of audio books being checked out is growing dramatically. Another is that half the space in the reference section is devoted to computers. There are almost as many requests for help navigating the Internet as there are for reference books. Does this signal the slow death of print books? I don’t think so. I believe the need to learn about different things and to become part of an imaginary world is a basic element of human nature and having information and stories available in different formats reinforces that need.

GIRL READINGMy friend said one thing that hasn’t changed is children’s story hour (her favorite part of her job). The kids still sit on the floor in front of the reader, wide-eyed, spellbound by the power of story–on their way to a lifelong love of books.

How about you? Do you have special memories of libraries? How do you feel about the changes that recent years have brought? Some people find them a little frightening. I’d love to hear how some of you feel about this.

Something A Little Different

April 11, 2015
A new season is beginning. The landscape is changing daily, almost hourly. I think a change of blogging pace is appropriate too … so, instead of the usual blog post, I’m sharing a short story I wrote some time ago.
 Best Laid Plans
Best Laid PlansIt started out simple, a typical Saturday morning. I was sorting laundry, holding socks up to the light so that I could distinguish the subtle variations of navy, black, and gray that make up my husband’s wardrobe when I heard his footsteps coming up the basement steps.
     The door opened; his face appeared. I took a deep breath and hit him with it: “Wanna go to the boat show?”
     “Today?” His response was so long in coming that I knew the answer was No.
     Then Todd, who, like most four-year-olds, hears better from another room, especially if the television is blaring, came running. “Hey, I heard about the boat show on TV. I wanna go!”
     Howard’s eyes took on that trapped husband look that he does so well and (to give him credit) tries so hard to hide.
     I heard myself explaining, justifying, “I thought this was something we’d all enjoy.”
     “You know we can’t afford . . .” Howard began in his most reasonable voice, the one I’d never heard before we were married.
     “It could be fun just to look around.”
     Todd watched us, eyes bright, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
     “Bathroom?” I prompted.
     “Oh yeah.” He trotted off down the hall.
     Howard did a U-turn in the direction of the basement.
     “So? What do you think?” I asked, catching him on the third step.
     “About what?”
     “You know what.”
     “I didn’t know you were interested in boats.”
     He had me there. I don’t even swim.
     “You don’t want to go?”
     “I didn’t say that.” Howard runs five miles every morning but the three steps back up to the kitchen seemed almost beyond his strength. “It’s just . . .” He stood with one hand on the door, not looking down toward the workbench at the foot of the stairs with all of those perfectly aligned screwdrivers, wrenches . . . whatevers. He was looking at me, even smiling, but I wasn’t fooled for a minute. Finally, he asked, “How long will the show be here?”.
     “I don’t know. I saw the ad in the paper and I thought you’d be interested.”
     Todd was back. “I’m interested.”
     “You forgot to zip your pants,” Howard told him, then turned to me. “Where is it?”
     “Civic Center.”
     “Parking could be a mess . . . day like today.”
     “When is parking anything else?” I had him there.
     He rubbed his fingers over his forehead, ironing away any sign of irritation.
     “I’ve never been to a boat show,” Todd pointed out, his eyes darting from one grown-up face to the other.
     Howard tousled the flyaway red-gold hair, thought a minute, and said, “Okay. We’ll go. But not today. We’ll plan it.”
     “What’s to plan? All we have to do is put on our coats, get in the car, and go.” I hated the sound of my voice: absolutely level, even as a string stretched taut.
     “Does it have to be today?” Howard prowled the kitchen, picked up the newspaper, and scanned the pages, “Here . . . let’s see . . . until the end of the month.” He held the paper out toward me. “We can go next weekend.” He was not exactly gracious in triumph.
     Nor was I gracious in defeat. “It would be nice to do something today.”
     “There are couple of things I’d really like to get done . . .” He pulled the ever-present list from his shirt pocket, studied the crumpled paper lovingly for a moment, then looked at Todd and me. “Why don’t you two go?”
     I thought of the week he’d just been through—deadlines, demanding clients—felt a brief flicker of sympathy, but brushed it away. “You’re the one who’s interested in boats.”
     I could almost see my words making their way through the intricate labyrinth behind the patient blue eyes.
     When the last syllable clicked into place, he said (reasonably, of course), “You guys can pick up all the pamphlets, bring them home, and we’ll look at them together.”
     “What’s the point of that? We’re not buying a boat.” (In a pinch I could be reasonable myself.)
     “I’d like a boat.” Todd, bless his heart, tried to keep it alive.
     Howard nodded, “I know.” He put the list back in his pocket and smiled (reasonable still). “It’s fine with me if the two of you go. You can tell me all about it.”
     Todd kept trying. “There’s gonna be a singing dog contest. The guy on TV said so.”
     Howard smiled down into the small earnest face. “I’m sure Mommy will love that.” He didn’t look at me.
     It seemed settled. I was stuck, going to the boat show, fighting traffic, parking the car, trying to explain a bunch of stuff to Todd that I don’t know beans about myself—not to mention those singing dogs. Well, I did bring it up. Not fair to disappoint Todd.
     But it wasn’t quite settled. I heard my son’s voice, ominously reasonable, “Next week’s okay, Daddy. It’ll be better if we all go.”
     So—that’s it. We’re all going to the boat show. Next Saturday. The newspaper article is neatly clipped and stuck on the refrigerator door, yellow highlighting at strategic spots. The doors open at ten. If we leave the house at nine fifteen, we’ll beat the crowd. Parking won’t be a problem. Howard and Todd are happily planning, laying the day out like a blueprint. I hear their voices humming in the next room, soothing and disturbing, as I reach for a dark sock.
     Something bright catches my eye. I pick up the car keys and run my thumb along the pleasantly irregular edge.
“I’m going out for a while,” I call over my shoulder.
     Howard says something, but the door closing behind me cuts off his words.
     I stride forward, lifting my face, defying the wind. The brisk air makes my cheeks tingle. I’m on my way. Somewhere. By myself. I can do that. I don’t need an escort. Or a destination. Next Saturday is planned, but today is mine. Unplanned. Full of possibility.

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