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Sunday, September 30, 2012


A couple of weeks ago a tiny, 80-year-old black woman joined our "family."

Quickly I dubbed her our songbird,  because she sings, sometimes for an hour at a time.

The rest of the time, she wanders around the building, from exit to exit, testing all of the doors. At the moment she has removed her shoe and is pounding it on the door. She desperately wants to escape, because she always sees smoke and she's convinced we're all going to die.

An aide speculates she might have cloudy vision due to cataracts that create the illusion of smoke. She must be terrified.

And as a friend commented, the nature of songbirds is to fly. No wonder she doesn't like a cage.

But I have come to appreciate our songbird. Even when she's wandering the halls at any hour of the day or night, opening residents' doors and turning on the light. She's done it to me three times already. Either she is trying every door in her desperation to escape. Or she's wanting to warn us all of the fire.

Other times she just sings, though. She still sees the smoke. But she digs deep into the faith that sustains. In spite of the threat of imminent death, she sings, "It's all right, it's all right now. Jesus is all right, He's all right now."  She sings the same 2-3 note melody with variations on the same words. The theme is constant: it's all right now. When she praises the Lord, her fear goes away.

Oh, to have that rock-solid faith when my mind starts going and I'm eighty years old . . .

Not enough people left comments last week to give away a book. A reminder: I will give away one book for every five comments left on my blog this week. Please answer the following question: Does our songbird remind you of someone you know? Talk about a senior who has influenced your life in some significant way.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


My mind is blank today, blank as an artist's canvas with only cloudy grays for a palette. Maybe that's what happens when my body is fighting some kind of sinus infection and my voice disappears.

Ah, there's  subject. My VOICE. And so a writer's secret is revealed. Write rubbish until something clicks. I should delete the previous paragraph except I like the phrase "with only cloudy grays for a palette."

My voice, literally, is like a squeaky toy, to quote the med aide here at the nursing home. A terrible case of laryngitis and a hurting throat. My writing voice is doing okay, as I'm closing in on the final quarter of my book Hidden Dreams.

I have a hard time describing my writer's "voice." The question "who would you compare yourself to?" still stumps me. (Gulp. Have I come far enough for people to start comparing themselves to ME?)

But I have learned a few things about myself in writing this book. One is, I tend to emphasis internal conflict over external, and I resolve those internal conflicts before beginning the more action-packed sequences of the story. Hidden Dreams includes a heroine in danger and a grand chase scene--all in the last quarter of the book. Her hiding place isn't discovered until 3/4s of the way through the book.

Another is, people often speak to my eye for detail. I've developed a theory about that: I research a specific question: what children's picture books were published/popular in the 1920s? Winnie-the-Pooh. I chased the rabbit trail further. Where did "pooh" come from? Further research led to Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Lord High Everything Else from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. All of those facts add depth to my heroine's character and worked into a fun scene.

I'm also beginning to wonder if I will become more of a New England writer than  Western author. I am working on books 5-7 set in Vermont (an eighth book, Beacon of Love, takes place in another New England state, Rhode Island). Vermont isn't known as a "popular" state the way Texas is, but my Vermont books have been well received. We'll see what doors God opens in the future.

My question to you this week: for those of you who have read my books. Who would you compare me to or how would you describe my writing? For those of you who are writers, what have you learned about your own voice?

**We had TWO WINNERS last week: Dana and Kendra. For a chance to win one of my books, leave a comment answering my question above on today's blog.  I will give away one book for every five comments left (except by me, of course).**

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Three copies of Postmark: Christmas, a contemporary Christmas novella anthology set in the town of Christmas, Florida, are being offered today at:

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I seldom review books on my blog, except to offer a few comments in my side bar. But I had to make an exception for Laurie Kingery's upcoming book, Preacher's Bride. 

On the face of it, Preacher's Bride spins a fairly predictable romance between a bachelor preacher and one of the town's spinsters. The setting is familiar--Texas in the late 1860s.

But Preacher's Bride is so much more. The heroine, Faith, has lost her faith. A great premise. It is a story of lost faith, the nature of faith, of sacrifice and heroism, of deceit and reconciliation. It stands as a clear example of a book that transcends the genre, profound and touching, yet ending with the perfect fairy tale romance ending so loved by readers.

On top of that, I appreciated Kingery's seamless writing. I wrote a book (A Ranger's Trail) in the county next door to San Saba and Lampasas in the 1870s. This is an area and time period I researched thoroughly. Kingery blew me away with her integration of everyday Comanche life and faith, the threat from both Comancheros and Comanches (I want to go back and read the book that included the raid).

As far as I'm concerned, this book is a must-read!

**Leave a comment here AND in the blog entitled "Dancing With Grief: Unexpected Surges" to double your chances to win a copy of one of my available books. Be sure to leave your email address or your entry is invalid.**

Saturday, September 15, 2012


But now, as it is, sorrows, unending sorrows must surge within your heart as well—for your own son’s death. Never again will you embrace him striding home. My spirit rebels—I’ve lost the will to live, to take my stand in the world of men.

From Homer's Iliad

For some reason, Jolene and Mom have been on my mind fairly often this last week or so. Oh,  I could trace the sequence of events . . .a woman posted somewhere that her son had committed suicide. I suggested she read the early posts here on this blog, when every day was a struggle and I wrote about it.

I went back and read those posts again. And even more than Jolene, I felt the loss of Mom. She was so much a part of what was happening. By this point four years ago, I reported that Mom no longer looked up on a Friday night, expecting Jolene to walk through the door. We had accepted the reality that she wasn't on an extended trip. She was gone from this earth, permanently.

But Mom wasn't. And yet, looking back on it, Jolene's death marked the beginning of the end for Mom. It was that summer that her heart began to fail, that fall when she had her heart valve replaced, the next spring when she went into an assisted living center permanently, and two years from Jolene's death when she went home to be with the Lord.

I lost them both, leaving me the single Musketeer. And I am missing both of them, sometimes quietly, sometimes fiercely.

I am working on devotional readings from the hymn "It Is Well With my Soul," and, at the moment, the phrase "when sorrows like sea billows roll."  As I examined many quotes on sorrow, I was surprised that over and over, sorrow and joy were mixed together.

I guess that makes sense. If I cut myself off from sorrow, I also cut myself off from love and joy. Loving someone leaves me vulnerable to hurt. If pain is a measure of love, then I loved them with everything in me.

When I read Homer's poetry, oh, how I related. I will never again see Jolene or Mom walking through the door. Jolene will never again crush me with one of her hugs or rid my back of tension with her magic fingers. My spirit, too, rebels. I have the will to live, but I've been there. It hurts. It's hard. 

And yet I know the truth that God comforts those that mourn. He comforts me. And like Paul, I pray that God's comfort will flow through me to others who are mourning.

**A reminder: I run a book giveaway every week. Leave a comment here AND in the blog entitled "Book Review: Preacher's Bride by Laurie Kingery" to double your chances to win a copy of one of my available books. Be sure to leave your email address or your entry is invalid. (Note: there have to be five comments for a valid giveaway.)**

Sunday, September 9, 2012


This past week was a bad week for me. Physically hurting, emotionally agitated, I spent much of the week feeling sorry for myself. The total failure of my short story contest capped my discouragement. By Thursday night, I was feeling "Woe is me! Nobody likes me or my contest."

I was in bad need of a wake-me-up call from the Lord. He sent gentle whispers of love that reminded me of some central truths. As I was going to bed on Thursday night, one of my aides picked up a poster I had won at Bingo: "Do It Anyway" by Mother Teresa. (If you haven't read it, get a copy. And I am aware there is a lack of clarity on the authorship.)

These two lines hit home:
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Oh, boy. With that gentle attitude adjustment, my mood started to improve. In addition to everyday blessings, God has given me new things during this awful week to thank Him for:

  • Five friends came to visit from my church--wonderful, sweet, ladies who sang an impromptu concert and cheered the hearts of everyone here. They stayed for five hours on Labor Day.
  • An editor at Barbour contacted me about writing my first ever nonfiction book, a devotional titled It Is Well With my Soul. 
Not to mention the many people who reached out with their care and concern as I have struggled.

Experience has taught me that when something good happens, it is often accompanied by some thing bad, from disappointment, as in the contest, to tragedy, as in Jolene's death.

Whether my efforts are welcomed or rebuffed. . . I should do my best. Anyway. Because I am doing it for the Lord.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I will keep this short . . . read the FIRST EVER WRITING CONTEST below in lieu of a regular blog post.

Since there were 12 comments on last week's blog, we have two winners this week: Pat Gorman and Jes are the winners of Postmark: Christmas. :)

This week, tell me about a favorite story you remember (or have written). A short story, a children's story. I will count comments here and on the contest blog. So. . . leave 2 comments for 2 chances to win! Just make them different. Also, you must leave your contact information to receive a book!

For instance, my mother loved to read me the story of Brer Rabbit in the Brier Patch. My son loved the story as well. She read it perfectly, with every voice distinctive. My so later said her dramatic reading of the story encouraged him to become a drama major at Denver School of the Arts (he was a contemporary of Mondo of Project Runway fame.)

The winner(s) will have their choice of any of my books which are still available.