Be Brave and Drink Tea

My daughter is in Germany, thousands of miles from family and friends, in a country whose language she has only begun to learn.

I set the expectation that she would have a semester abroad, mainly because such an experience was never within the realm of possibility for me. I wanted her to have an experience that I had always heard was often life-changing.

What I didn’t consider was how challenging it might be and how brave Darling Daughter was to take on that challenge.

Don’t get me wrong. DD loves the city, its culture, and the opportunity to learn German where it’s spoken. But at the same time, it’s become clear that she desperately misses her family, friends, and even Rosa, our extremely whiny half-Siamese cat.

I miss knowing she’s a mere hour and a half drive away, where I can swoop in and rescue her whenever necessary.

It doesn’t matter that it’s never been necessary.

Added to this is the fact that Darling Daughter is on a budget, and the rest of the kids in her program are, well, not. Finding a way to deal with this discrepancy has been another lesson she’s been forced to learn.

She needs a hug, and you can’t hug using FaceTime (although I’m really grateful for that kind of technology).

All I can do is listen and spout Mom-isms.

Make sure you eat properly.
Get a good night’s sleep — things will be better in the morning.
Decide what’s most important to spend your money on.
Take a deep breath and then another. It will be okay.

And lastly,
Have a cup of tea.

A cup of tea has long been the traditional means of dealing with problems in our household. There is comfort to be found in the ritual of boiling the water, heating the pot, steeping the teabags, pouring the tea into a favorite mug, and then drinking the warm, familiar beverage. Or perhaps it’s merely taking a few minutes to do something other than dwelling on your troubles.

So, my Darling Daughter, perhaps this reminder will help: Be brave, and drink tea.

I’ll do the same and think of you.

Love, Mum



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Everyone Lives in Their Own World

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The Engineer and I spent the weekend at the Piston Power Show in Cleveland. Their slogan is “If a piston makes it go, it’s in the show.” Unsurprisingly, most of the vehicles on display were cars, but there was also … Continue reading

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In the Beginning. The End.

I like beginnings. Always have. Always will.

This carries over to my writing. The beginning of a story comes easily, with the first line or scene floating into my brain.

Endings are harder because fiction — unlike life — promises to tie everything together by the time the story ends.

Gosh. That’s a big promise.

There’s a saying in publishing: “The beginning sells your current book. The ending sells your next.” In other words, the beginning and the ending should make the reader want to keep reading.

Because I plot my books ahead of time, I generally know how they need to end. It just takes me a while to figure out how to write it. Since my books are humorous, my endings should be at least mildly amusing, which adds to the challenge.

Because I find endings difficult, I’ve thought and read a lot about them. Here is what I’ve found that works for me.

  1. Romance fiction always ends with a HEA (happy ever after). It’s the law (at least of romance).  Other types of fiction may have more leeway. I would argue this presents a unique set of challenges. We have to reach that HEA, yet make the ending believable and entertaining.
  2. Avoid clichés. Too many people already believe romance is a cliché. Don’t give them ammunition. And please don’t end with the couple staring off into the sunset. Just don’t.
  3. Tie up major loose endings, at least the ones relating to the main characters. You may want to leave readers wondering what happens to one or two of the minor cast members. Sequel, anyone?
  4. Speaking of characters. Make sure the ending fits yours. If your hero is a tough, alpha kind of guy, and he and the female lead are in conflict over how to raise their child, it would be out of character if the book ends with them deciding he’ll be Mister Mom so she can pursue her career. Result? Readers will feel cheated, and they won’t want to read your next book. Not a HEA for anyone.
  5. If you resolve the conflict with compromise, make it a compromise. Please (I beg you!) don’t have the woman suddenly give in on everything. You’ll break my heart.
  6. Tying the book’s end to its beginning can be both satisfying and effective. I like books that end this way, so I tend to use the same strategy.
  7. If you’re still stuck, try brainstorming with your critique partners or other writer friends. The suggestions may get silly (especially if you’re enjoying a glass or two of wine during the brainstorming session), but these are people who know how you write. They’re likely to have an idea or two that you can use.

How about you? What kind of endings do you like? If you’re a writer, do you find endings or beginnings easier? What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve ever gotten on beginnings and endings? Leave a comment and tell all.

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I bought a bottle of wine today, and the clerk asked for my ID.

I laughed because it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been carded. Then I asked if she cards everyone.

She said she asks for ID from anyone who looks under forty-five.

I was born in 1961.

Let me do the math for you: I’m fifty-four.

Not an exciting event for you, perhaps, but it was for me.

This is my Mom. She’s eighty-four. Perhaps I take after her.IMAG0031-2


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Does Not Compute

A Rant — Be warned!

I like computers. I like them a lot. I like the way they allow me to get my thoughts down almost as quickly as I think them, and then let me go back and reorder them so they sound coherent.

I like the way I can cut and paste, rearranging my stories without having to re-type every word.

I love that I can talk to Darling Daughter face to face (screen-to-screen?) even though she’s in Germany. It’s like a miracle.

Right now though, the only thing I can think to like about my computer is being able to imagine what kind of noise it would make if I threw it against the wall.

You see, today I put off several tasks including sweeping and mopping the floor (a major sacrifice!) to work on a short story. And I was hot, words flowing out of me like a river, tying up the loose ends that needed knotted, and really making progress.

All came to a stuttering, grinding, frustrating halt when I got up for a moment and returned to sleeping computer.

No problem, you think, and so did I. But unlike Sleeping Beauty, my lovely Mac chose not to awaken, at least not completely.

I did what any rational person would do — shut it down and restarted it. And there were my lovely words in a recovered document, which I saved, replacing the older version.

The big problem came when I tried to get back to work.
Could I type on the document?
Could I copy and paste all the words in a new document?
Could I copy and paste the words in an email?
Could I shut down $%@# Word and reopen it?
Well, yes, I could. But the newly saved document was gone, replaced by — you guessed it — the same document I’d started out with three hours before.
Clinging blindly to my rapidly diminishing faith in technology, I again shut down the computer and restarted it.
No joy. My work is gone.

I needed to console myself, so I ate two pieces of fresh-baked bread and butter. That helped a little, but now I have to exercise to work off the extra calories.

Yes, I know it would have been better to just work off the frustration that way to begin with.  And yes, I know I should have saved earlier and more often. Telling me that now doesn’t help much, does it?

So now, I will set Word to auto-save more often in the future and then go exercise. There’s really nothing else I can do except to add one more reason to my list of why you shouldn’t become a writer.

Don’t Become a Writer
Reason #13: Because you have to depend on technology, and technology doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to.

P.S. You’re probably wondering what the featured image of the lake has to do with this post. The answer is nothing. I just needed something calming to look at.

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Funnily Enough

I write funny books.
At least, I try to write funny books. Since I’m not yet published, you’ll have to take my word for it.

My critique partners assure me I’m funny — bless their (undoubtedly misguided, exceedingly generous and kind-spirited) little hearts.

Lately, however,  I’ve been wondering why I try so hard to see the humor in life. Because — let’s face it — life is not always funny.

And I realized that’s why.  It’s because life can be so hard, so unexplainably and unexpectedly tragic.

Horrible things have happened to people I love, horrible things I can’t do a damned thing about. I can’t bring my brother back, make my friends well, or stop my colleague’s son’s car from going off the road.

There are times when the only alternative to laughter is to start crying and never stop. And making people laugh isn’t about ignoring tragedy; it’s a way of dealing with it or perhaps just escaping from beneath it for a few seconds.

I read about an author who had a fan call her books her “happy place.” The writer commented about what a good thing that was to be, someone’s happy place.

It reminded me of my friend Pat Carterette telling me about a committee she was on. She said something like, “I’m not really sure why they asked me to be on this committee. I don’t have the knowledge to contribute like the rest of the members, so I just figure I’m their comic relief.”

Pat is gone now, but if I can do that — be someone’s happy place or their comic relief — in person, my books or my blogs, that would be a very good thing indeed.












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The “S” Word: Writing the Dreaded Synopsis

Cue the doleful music.
I’ve been busy writing synopses.

This synopsathon began with an agent request for a full manuscript and synopsis. Of course, I’d never query a book without previously having written a synopsis, so this should have been no problem, right?

Wrong. One glance at said synopsis, and I was hit by revision fever. Before I knew it I was rewriting the whole thing.

And that was fine. The new and improved version is, well, new and improved.

Unfortunately, the next task on my writing agenda was another synopsis, this one for a novela contest entry.

I’ll interject here with an explanation for non-writers, but don’t worry, I’ll make it short and sweet (kind of like a <insert the s-word here>).

Writing a synopsis sucks. Okay, that was a little too short (and not very sweet either). Here’s why writing a synopsis sucks: It requires a writer to distill her 90,000 word book into, oh, say, five pages. Or less. That’s a bit like saying, “Tell me your life story. You’ve got five minutes. Start now.”

That’s why I’m employing a sneaky psychological technique called “avoidance” and writing this blog post instead of finishing the #$%&@ second synopsis.

It would be nice to think this brief descent into synopsis hell will benefit my writing career. Certainly, I’ve read many articles on how to write one.

Does this mean I can give you advice on how to write a brilliant synopsis? Of course not! (Did you not just read the above post? Why would you even want advice from me on this subject? Are you crazy?)

But these people can.

Jane Friedman – Great tips and links to more: Caro Clarke – Breaks the process into stages: Shannon Donnelly – “Writers in the Storm” blog gives a checklist:
Therese Walsh – Quick overview:
DMatriccino – Writer’s Digest guide:
Some examples from Writer’s Digest:

Feel free to leave a comment about how you hate synopses too. If you love them, I don’t want to know.

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Addendum to “Don’t Become a Writer — Eleven Reasons Off the Top of My Head”

Reason #12: If you become a writer, you have to learn to write synopses.

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Ideas That Go Bump in the Night Revisited

There must be something about this time of year that causes me to become slightly unhinged — at least in my dreams. If you read my post from 4 February last year, you’ll understand what I mean. If you haven’t, here’s the link:

Read it, and you’ll get what I mean by unhinged. My subconscious is a wild and woolly thing.

But back to last night — I didn’t sleep well, mostly because I’d stayed up trying to hone the perfect synopsis for a book submission. (And yes, I do hear all you other writers snorting at the sight of the words “perfect” and “synopsis” next to each other.)

When I got up this morning, my Misfit Flash informed me that I’d slept a total of four hours and fifty minutes, with two hours and four minutes of that being deep sleep, a morsel of information I could have functioned without. What it didn’t say was I woke up with a new book scene in my head — complete with dialogue — because I’d just dreamt it.

This has happened before, and as I stumbled toward the tea kettle, I took a moment to write it down. This has happened before, and I knew if I didn’t get it down immediately, the words would vanish  as the coherent thoughts of morning filled my mind.

I’ll admit the scene would be more helpful if it was for my current work in progress rather than number five on my project list, but I’ll take inspiration from anywhere, at any time, for any book I have planned.

What was the scene about? I’ll give you two lines of dialogue. See if you can guess.

Him: “Come on. You know you want to.”

Her: (nodding) “You’re right. I do.”

Since I write humor, you know what he thinks she wants and what she wants are not the same thing. He’s in for a rather unpleasant surprise — as he deserves for even thinking the words “You know you want to.”

There’s more, but you’ll have to wait for the book. 🙂


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Don’t Become a Writer — Eleven Reasons Off the Top of My Head

  1. Writing cuts into your reading time. If you think your TBR (to be read) pile is big now, multiply it by fifty. Then add a stack of craft books on top, along with a small pile of paperbacks your friends wrote that you want to read.
  2. You will always feel guilty about not writing enough. Whatever you’re doing, you’ll think you should be at the computer. BICHOK (Bum in Chair, Hands on Keyboard), baby!
  3. As a writer, you will notice problems in books that you never saw before — like when your favorite author switches point of view in the middle of a page and then switches back. This will make you crazy.
  4. Most published authors worked like demons to get published. Now they work like demons to sell books while at the same time writing the next one. Or so I’ve heard.
  5. If you are a writer, you will learn that soon as you turn off your computer, you’ll figure out how to improve that last paragraph. Or scene. Or even, gulp, book. Every time.
  6. Writers are notorious for scribbling on random fragments of paper. You will regularly find scraps with notes written in your handwriting that make no sense whatsoever.  Here are a few examples: “coupling — captain — subtext” and “what matters most to Art?” (Who’s Art?) and “add feeling of mud.” (Note: These are actual notes I was able to find without leaving my chair.)
  7. You will never, ever stop revising. That query that seemed fine last time you sent it? It will somehow have turned to crap the next time you look at it.
  8. If people tell you they like your writing, you’ll assume they’re being nice.
  9. If people are critical of your work, you’re likely to believe every word.
  10. Your children will learn not to trust you to copy-edit their papers because you will see five hundred things they need to change. Or maybe that’s just me?
  11. You will spend your entire life looking up how to correctly write ellipsis and em dashes or some other bit of punctuation or grammar that you just cannot remember! 

There are many more reasons not to become a writer and only one reason I can think of to do it. And that’s because you just can’t help yourself.

Feel free to share your reasons in the comments.



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