Tag Archives: Writing

“Every life should have nine cats.” And several dogs.


Cream peering down from couch

The dastardly duo, my Siamese/tabby mixes Peaches and Cream, patrol the house seeking for anything to get into. They thoroughly enjoyed ransacking Christmas presents and the glorious tree. Big fans.

When in a calm mode, Peaches is a lap cat, as is our curmudgeonly older tabby, Percy. Between them, they manage to share me, though I’m hard-pressed at times to find space for my laptop.

Insatiably curious Cream sits by my head, purrs in my ear, and nibbles my hair. He’s also box mad. Loves Amazon box day (pictured below).

Cream loves him an amazon box

My tiny pom-poo Sadie Sue resides at my feet, and rescue dog, Jilly, on the love seat by the couch.

Two more kitties, Siamese mix, Pavel, and our elderly Minnie Mae prefer to perch overhead on the couch like vultures.

Sadie saves my seat for me when I get up. All of these furry friends aid in my writing. Some not as helpful as others, but each are faithful supporters. On those occasions when Peaches and Cream go coo-coo kitty, Sadie and I attempt to regain order, with little success. Cat herding is a thankless job, as Sadie will attest. Except for the odd scolding, Jilly mostly ignores the pair.

Sadie waiting for me

(Sadie Sue saving my seat)

jilly lou 2

(Jilly Lou being shy)

“Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons. ~Robertson Davies

“Cats choose us; we don’t own them.”—Author Kristin Cast

“If you want to write, keep cats.”
—Author Aldous Huxley

Sleepy kitty

“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp … The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding.” ~ Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from Kensington

“You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense.”
Jane Pauley (journalist, The Today Show)

“I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.”
Edgar Allan Poe (author, “The Raven”)

Cream insdie tree“Books, Cats, Life is Good.” ~ Edward Gorey

“I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

“It is very inconvenient habit of kittens (Alice had once made the remark) that, whatever you say to them they always purr.”
Lewis Carroll (author, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

(Cream loves him a good Christmas tree)

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.”

Hippolyte Taine (critic)

“If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.” ~Mark Twain

“Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many ailments, but I never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.” ~Joseph Wood Krutch

My beautiful Cream“As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.” ~Ellen Perry Berkeley

“The problem with cats is that they get the exact same look on their face whether they see a moth or an axe-murderer.” ~Paula Poundstone

“Cats can work out mathematically the exact place to sit that will cause most inconvenience.” ~Pam Brown

“There has never been a cat
Who couldn’t calm me down
By walking slowly
Past my chair.”
~Rod McKuen

“There are few things in life more heartwarming than to be welcomed by a cat.” ~Tay Hohoff

Sleeping kitty Cream“I like cats a lot. I’ve always liked cats. They’re great company. When they eat, they always leave a little bit at the bottom of the bowl. A dog will polish the bowl, but a cat always leaves a little bit. It’s like an offering.” ~Christopher Walken

“A happy arrangement: many people prefer cats to other people, and many cats prefer people to other cats.” ~Mason Cooley

“Every life should have nine cats.”

***Fortunately, Peaches and Cream take a lot of naps, or this house would be in worse shape than it is. Images by daughter Elise Trissel

Not Cool but Definitely Qualify as Quirky


the writing fairyCool is a challenging state to achieve and highly difficult to maintain for more than short snippets of time. Consider the pressure involved. Even if I pulled out all the stops and had advisers on ‘cooldom’, I’d wobble like a kid on stilts and tumble from my perch. But weird–I’ve got that down.  Back in my wanna be hippie days, I was approvingly termed ‘freaky’, the hippie term for quirky. Gnarly was never ever within my reach. Granted, my hippie era was a few decades ago, but I’ve hung in there and expanded weird; lends itself well to being an author. We’re a quirky bunch. Mental also applies. Some of us believe in the writing fairy. We call her ‘the muse’.

teaI don’t know who among us in the author world actually qualifies as cool, but suspect not many. Authors live off of caffeine and chocolate until doctors take it away, and even then…I’m not supposed to have either one, but just try getting me through a day without them. Earl Grey is my favorite tea, hot, with milk and sugar, and dark chocolate, flavored with mint, sea salt, and almonds…the specialty kinds.

mountains in early summer

A writer’s residence of choice is a cave, or secluded cabin, in some remote location with good internet and cell phone connections. Here we dwell, or would, while we labor over our next story, snapping at anyone who intrudes in our imaginary world, unless they bring treats.  I swear with a week of uninterrupted time, I could finish my next book. But there’s no such thing, unless I run away. I’ve contemplated a mountain retreat.

Bilbo: “I want to see mountains again, mountains, Gandalf!  And then find somewhere quiet where I can finish my book.”

DarkChocolateSquaresMost writers fall into two different categories, those on meds and those who should be. I’m talking prescription, doctor monitored, meds. Rare are the writers who function well without them. And yes, drinking counts as a med. So does smoking. So does caffeine, but it’s the mildest of all addictions.

Quill Pen, Diary, Writing, Ink Well, Woman's HandApart from a death in the family, possibly our own, nothing matters quite so much to an author as how our work is faring. If the muse is with us, we’re euphoric; if not, we’re down, down, down. 1 star reviews never cease to annoy us, even if we’ve been in this rough and tumble world for years. And, if we have, 1 stars are not justified, probably not 2 stars either. You may not like the story, but that doesn’t mean it was written by an orangutan. Give us a little credit.

“To write is to be vulnerable.” – Unknown

By and large, authors do not take criticism well. After the gnashing of teeth passes, we may apply any constructive insights offered and grow in our craft. Or not. It’s all about the story. If you don’t ‘get it’ that’s your problem. We’re busy writing. It’s what we do. And what would this world be without the storytellers? What if you were fated to write your own?

Writing is a vulnerable state: you bare your soul.

Oh, and most authors like cats. Or dogs. Or both. We write with our furbabies.

When the Wind Goes Out of Your Sails


Flying birdsFind a new jump off place. Launching from the same spot and crashing ‘is no even working,’ to quote from my then 3-year-old grandson, Colin. Fresh wind will give you lift and the perspective to explore new ground. Inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. If you never deter from the path, you don’t know what wonders may be hidden in the trees. Hold fast to your faith. If you don’t have any, reach deep inside and find some. You’re gonna need every last bit.

misty trees (2)An author once told me I’d need a second and third skin to be a writer. I was still working on the first one. I’m tougher now, but that doesn’t mean the barbs don’t hurt. Just less. Every venture in life is a challenge. Some more than others. Writing has to rank way up there. I write because it’s what I do, and put my heart into each story. The labor required to craft these creations is indescribable. The gratification must come from the journey, though. Nothing else is a given. Readers may or may not appreciate my efforts. Ultimately, I must write for myself, and I’m exploring new ground. The path’s a little hazy, but I’ll find my way.

Bird, Flying, Crow, Raven, Sky, Sun“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
~ Maya Angelou

“Out of difficulties grow miracles.” ~Jean de la Bruyere

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” ~William Shakespeare

“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” ~Vince Lombardi

The Challenge in Writing Straight Historical Romance


Civil War, American Civil War, War, Ghost, Armed Forces,

I can’t seem to stay away from ghosts. They keep popping up in my stories, difficult to justify to my historical editor who considers them paranormal. Fortunately, I also have a paranormal editor who’s all about visitations from the departed. But you see, ghosts are not that unusual in Virginia. We have more ghost stories than any other state in the union. I could share half a dozen paranormal accounts without venturing beyond my neighborhood and family. Those of you who don’t believe in this sort of thing, move to the Shenandoah Valley and get back with me. Yes, it’s gorgeous here. Maybe that’s why some ghosts don’t want to leave. Just last week, my son and I saw unexplained greenish-yellow lights up on the hill behind our farm, in the dark, moving around the Old Order Mennonite Church/schoolhouse, then–nothing. Some kind of flashlight, we wondered? Where did it go? If someone needed the light to find their way in, why not back out? It’s rural countryside and pitch dark.

old barn at dusk

Did I go investigate? No. I only like to write about ghosts. And I suspect the lower end of the farm behind us is haunted. There’s just a creepy old barn and a burned out, nothing left of it, home, and falling into ruins outbuildings. I once found a scrap of newspaper while poking around that site and all it said was ‘The devil.’

(Image of old barn at dusk by Elise)

I’m not comfortable with the idea of something skulking about, springing at me, shouting, ‘Boo!’ If I get the notion anything might, I’ll be loudly singing hymns and reciting the Anglican Exorcism prayer sent to mom and me by a lovely English lady named Dorothy Evans. We requested it after she shared an account of their parish manse being haunted by a violent poltergeist and the new priest calling the faithful together to recite the prayer and banish it. She told of paintings flung down from the upstairs hallway and furniture shoved against doors. But the detail I remember best is the saucepan lid she says flew across the kitchen and landed at her feet–thrown by an unseen hand. Fortunately, the faithful were successful in dispelling the offender. Years ago, my son and I held hands and recited this same prayer in the old farm house he and his soon to be wife were renovating, to out the poltergeist banging about, opening doors, and alarming the cat, people, etc. It worked, btw.

ghostly woods

There are several camps of ghosts. The most common are those who have unfinished business. In my stories, once they complete their mission, they move on. They may need help to accomplish their task from the hero or heroine. Some ghosts are seemingly lost–didn’t get the memo the war is over, (the Civil War)–or some such confusion, and need encouragement to move on. Some phenomenal occurrences are an echo from the past–a chink in time opening to reveal a brief glimpse of the people and era in which they lived. They’re not ghosts. Poltergeists, unseen except for their volatile effects, are more common than visible ghosts. The real bad asses are the ones I worry about encountering–ever. Steer clear of them, unless you bring a group of faithful with you to pray them out.

Fog, Farm, Mist, Cemetery, Tree, Wet, Tombstone, Field, Morning, Grave

In my recent release, historical romance novel, Traitor’s Legacy, set during the American Revolution, I made it through the novel with mystery, intrigue, and adventure, no ghosts. However, in writing the sequel, Traitor’s Curse, I’m already onto my second ghost, and the story has a delicious Gothic flavor. This one will likely wind up with my paranormal editor. I tried to keep the series straight historical, and the period details are, but there’s no keeping the ghosts out. So the series will be, in the words of a local country woman describing her two-year-old, ‘right mixy.’ Say that with a Southern accent for the full affect.

I’m back working with the Wild Rose Press. I like my editors, and what the company can do with the books that I can’t, including more with audio and now they’re getting stories translated into other languages. Fortunately, they tell me to write the story that wants to be told and they’ll find the spot for it within the company in one of their lines. This isn’t to say I won’t do any more indie titles, but I like working with the Wild Rose.

For those of you chomping at the bit for the Anglican Exorcism prayer, here it is: Do not try this alone if the presence you sense is evil, only with a strong group of Christians, the more, the better. And join hands. Even if you think I’m nuts.

“In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, may this distressed soul be relieved of his obsession with this world and sent to where he belongs.”

I added, ‘go to the light,’ although a truly evil presence won’t, but a troubled, restless one may. Seems only right to offer that as an option.

Stories I’ve written with ghosts thus far include Somewhere My Love and Somewhere the Bells Ring (Christmas). These two are the most overtly ghostly. However, Enemy of the King is historical, but the H&H are haunted by his late wife (Traitor’s Legacy is the sequel to Enemy of the King). Through the Fire is historical, but the heroine sees her late uncle. Kira, Daughter of the Moon, sequel to Through the Fire, has a poltergeist, but overall, it’s historical. Red Bird’s Song is strongly historical, but the heroine glimpses her departed brother. The Bearwalker’s Daughter is carefully researched historical, but has a strong paranormal element, including the departed returning. And a Shawnee warrior who can ‘bear walk’. But that’s another phenomena entirely.

 Chapel Hill black and white image

A final sharing from June of this year. As my dear Aunt Moggie lay dying in the old family homeplace in the valley where she’d lived her whole life, including her married life, the hospice nurse roused from where she’d nodded off in a chair, to see a man seated on the bedside. He was holding Moggie’s hand and she was speaking quietly with him. The nurse assumed he was my aunt’s younger son, Henry. When the man she took to be Henry stood up, nodded at her politely, and left the room, she followed to see for certain who he was. She discovered Henry asleep in a chair. It wasn’t him. My aunt spoke matter-of-factly about her late husband, RW, being with her. And Henry looks a lot like his father did as a younger man. When I heard the man sitting with my aunt had nodded politely to the nurse before leaving the room, I knew it had to be my uncle. That was exactly like him. I believe he returned to be with his beloved wife as she was passing from this world to the next. The veil may be thinner than we think.


Somewhere the Bells Ring larger cover sizeChapel Hill, pictured above, is the old family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley and the setting for my ghostly Christmas romance, Somewhere the Bells Ring.

My stories are available from various booksellers, but Amazon has them all.

Visit my Amazon Author Page.

“Keep Calm: It’s only a first draft.” – Unknown


Siamese cat with antique typewriter3

It’s a slow writing day, possibly because I have bronchitis. Maybe these quotes will inspire me to persevere, and some of you in the process.

“I am an artist. This means I live in a perverse fantasy world with unrealistic expectations. Thank you for understanding.” – Unknown

“I know nothing in the world that has so much power as a word…” – Emily Dickinson (She lived before lightsabers)

“Libraries raised me.” – Ray Bradbury

Writing old school.

Writing old school.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” – Sylvia Plat

“Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” – G.K. Chesterton (Unless, of course, you like dragons and want to keep them. I’ve still got mine.)

“Good writing isn’t science. It’s an art, and the horizon is infinite. You can always get better.” – Unknown

cat on laptop“I care not for your excuses, mortal. Finish your writing!” – Loki (Alright, already)

“Write what should not be forgotten…” – Isabel Allende (Like colonial America and the American Revolution?  The whole how America came to be thing. Done that.)

“Never give up.” – Unknown (Well, I’m still at it.)

“I’m always writing a story in my head.” – Unknown (Several, actually)

Lost your pen?Dogs and cats/kittens are my usual writing assistants. And preschoolers. Not as much help as you might think.

“Things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow.” – James Victore (I was definitely a weird kid, so should be an awesome author)

“You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you. Go work with it.” – Unknow

"To write is to be vulnerable." - Unknown

“To write is to be vulnerable.” – Unknown

“The discipline of creation, be it to paint, compose, write, is an effort toward wholeness.” – Madeleine L’Engle (No way I’m arguing with Madeleine L’Engle. She has my utmost respect)

“Write like there’s no tomorrow. Revise like you didn’t write it.” – Writers Digest (OK. I’ve got it.)

“Pajamas. All day.” – Unknown (yep)

Oh, goody, the writing fairy has arrived. I knew if I just believed hard enough, she’d come and lend a hand.

the writing fairy

Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne


When I first took up writing romance novels with an all-out passion, I knew absolutely nothing about the genre, or the business of writing. No notion of the massive journey that lay ahead. I was as unwitting as a newly hatched duckling, and thought I could embark on this quest and sail along. 

I remember the first contest I entered, assuming I would win, of course. I was mentally planning my award acceptance speech when I received my scores. Not good, would you believe. I was stunned. One judge tossed me a bone. ‘You have talent,’ she assured me, ‘as evidenced in your flair for description. 

Another bemused judge observed, ‘You broke every rule.’

‘Rules?’ I mused. ‘There’s rules?’

I mean, who knew?

After a three day pout, I resumed the journey.

Somewhere along this rugged uphill climb, a kind soul directed me to RWA. I can’t imagine how I would have grasped the rudiments without them and other writing groups. Always before me lay a new turn in the path, another hurdle to master, and onward ho I went like a sled dog through blinding snow, uncertain where shelter lay. Quitting might have been threatened, but was never a real option. No one ever achieves success by abandoning the quest. I knew that. Still do. So, wherever you are in the process, whether reveling in your stardom, or just undertaking this life changing journey, keep going. It’s a well worn path and there are kindly guides along the way.

My basic thinking about writing is that stuff’s gotta happen or you lose the reader’s attention. Onward ho.

Some wise quotes for inspiration:


If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. ~Toni Morrison

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow

A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. ~Charles Peguy

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. ~Sharon O’Brien

 
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~James Michener

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it. ~Jules Renard, “Diary,” February 1895

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. ~Author Unknown

A critic can only review the book he has read, not the one which the writer wrote. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960

 

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham 


Writing comes more easily if you have something to say. ~Sholem Asch


I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork. ~Peter De Vries

Publication — is the auction of the Mind of Man. ~Emily Dickinson

The Writing Journey Behind Historical Romance Novel, Traitor’s Legacy (and why authors are kind of crazy)


TraitorsLegacy_w8945_med.jpg (official cover) (2)

Writing historicals is a way of time traveling and connecting with the past. Rather magical, really. Being drawn to the paranormal, I can’t resist adding a ghostly touch to some of my stories, but the history is carefully researched.

I also write actual time travels. To date, I have 1 short story, 3 novellas, 9 novels, and two works of nonfiction published either by The Wild Rose Press, or myself. I greatly value my editor and publisher, but sometimes I enjoy the freedom of writing whatever and however I want.

Daughter, Elise, formatted my nonfiction titles for print, also historical/paranormal novel, Somewhere My Love, (won the 2008 Preditor’s & Editor’s Readers Poll for best Romance Novel) the first book I had published with the Wild Rose Press. I later took back the rights and expanded the story. Elise does my Indie covers. Mom assists with editing, as do friends.

NEW SOMEWHERE MY LOVE COVER2

I have several critique partners. But when it comes to creating a story, I mostly talk amongst myselves. Authors are a little crazy. I have a theory about writers, those who are on medication and those who should be. Characters are all important and I’ve learned to listen well to them, because if I don’t, they won’t speak to me. How authors who plot out every step of their stories in advance manage, I don’t know. I try to plot. I do. Then I start writing and the story doesn’t go as I’d foreseen. EVER. I do my research, so I have a reasonable idea of what is and isn’t possible in a particular era. When the characters depart from the norm, at least I know what the norm is. And heroes and heroines by definition invariably march to their own drum.

Friesian horse

I suffered the worst writer’s block of my life midway through Traitor’s Legacy when I failed to heed the characters. There was nothing for it, other than to wait until the muse returned. I even wrote a different story in the interim, time travel romance, Somewhere in the Highlands, the latest in my Somewhere in Time Series (awaiting its sequel). My editor must’ve despaired of me ever getting back to her with the manuscript for Traitor’s Legacy, and was delighted when I did.

Enemyoftheking resized

To appreciate Traitor’s Legacy, I must first touch on its predecessor, award-winning historical romance novel, Enemy of the King (ranked third in the top ten BHB Reader’s Choice Best Books of 2009 at Publisher’s Weekly, voted book of the week at Long and Short Reviews, and on the 2010 Best Romance Novel List at Buzzle).

Set in late summer and fall of 1780, Enemy of the King opens in an elegant plantation home outside Charleston, then swiftly moves to Carolina Backcountry. This adventure romance focuses on the Southern front of the Revolution and culminates in the Battle of King’s Mountain. Years before the idea for the novel emerged, I was researching my early Scots-Irish ancestors in the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains during the French and Indian War. My fascination with Native Americans led to my Native American Warrior Series. As my research progressed past the early settlement days, I kept coming across references to Kings Mountain, noting how proud the Virginia men were who’d gone over to take part in the battle. I made a mental note to return later and do further research, which launched me into the American Revolution. I’ve walked the battle grounds at Kings Mountain twice. Very moving.
Terrific Reader Review for Enemy of the King

One account I came across regarding my ancestor’s involvement in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, NC, was recorded in a journal by my Great-Great-Great-Great–Grandfather Sam Houston, uncle of the famous Sam and father of another Sam. To differentiate between the two cousins, his son was called Sad Sam, because his wife died young of consumption. The other Sam (not yet famous) was called Bad Sam because he was rather wild. Also interesting, the wife of Sad Sam, Mary Russel Rowland, was a copious letter writer. We learned the ‘Dear Uncle James’ she refers to in her writing is James Madison.

JEREMIAH from Enemy of the KingThe Patriot hero in Enemy of the King, Jeremiah Jordan, is named for my colonial ancestor, a captain during the Revolution. The antagonist in Enemy of the King, British Captain Jacob Vaughan, serves with the 17th Light Dragoons in Tarleton’s Legion. Vaughan was such a multifaceted and intriguing character, I decided to write a sequel featuring him. It was always my intent to give both points of view regarding the American Revolution, although I ultimately come out on the side of the Patriot’s. And still do. I’d begun work on the sequel and even had the title, Traitor’s Legacy, and basic plot in mind, but wasn’t happy with my Virginia setting. It didn’t work for the story and I wasn’t certain what would, so I set the manuscript aside and focused on other books.

Photo of Person's Ordinary #2JPG

Then in late spring 2012, I received an email from North Carolinian, Ann See, raving about how much she’d enjoyed Enemy of the King and insisting she had the perfect location for a sequel. Historic Halifax, NC. She also very much wanted me to feature Person’s Ordinary. So persuasive was Ann, that my husband Dennis and I undertook a visit and were given a tour of this charming glimpse into the past. I decided she was right; Halifax was exactly what I needed for the story, as was the old Ordinary. I’d been seeking just such a place. The British Legion, soon joined by Lord Cornwallis with the rest of the army, occupied Halifax in May 1781. This episode in history drew me and I read all the accounts I could find. The bulk of Traitor’s Legacy takes place in the Halifax area during the British occupation, and culminates in colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown.

The Drama and Romance of the American Revolution

While also being adventurous, Traitor’s Legacy is more of a mystery than Enemy of the King, with spies, turncoats, a coded letter, intrigue, and above all, romance.  I am at work on the sequel to Traitor’s Legacy, entitled Traitor’s Curse.  With Traitor’s Curse, I’m back into ghostly historical romance with a lot of mystery. In capturing a reader’s attention, I lead them back to a time and place they may know little or nothing about. It’s my hope, they will go on and do more research on their own, even visit the sites featured in my stories.

These three novels will comprise what my editor terms The Traitor’s Legacy Series. Because Enemy of the King was written before the series was conceived, it doesn’t bear that imprint. But leads the way.

Journey back to the drama and romance of the American Revolution, where spies can be anyone and trust may prove deadly–Traitor’s Legacy.

Ghostly night Sky

***Traitor’s Legacy was released on August 13th from The Wild Rose Press.

***My titles are available from various booksellers, but Amazon has them all.

Person’s Ordinary pictured above.