Category Archives: On writing

Writing through the deadly sins.

I came across a cute meme that I shared on my FB author page this week:

Its ring-true humor doesn’t change the fact that writing is one of my favorite things to do. And even better, there are many enviable exceptions to this rule of writing lucratively.

But as my tax return will prove, being an author can have just as many red lines as black.

And that doesn’t even count the cost I’ll ultimately pay for deadly sin envy that I have for those who are able to make writing their full-time and very lucrative work.

(So deep, I could probably kidnap Agent/Author H.N. Swanson and hold him or her for ransom and then brag about it, and come out better on Judgment Day.)

But, undoubtedly and unequivocally, writing and publishing my so-far-three-books is one of my greatest prides. (Indeed, another deadly sin, but the red lines keep that one in perspective.)

Fact is, this blog was never intended to be about money. Or sins for that matter. Its original intention is now in my drafts folder for another day.

Instead, I’ll attempt at wrapping up the words and 5 a.m. nonsense so that we can all get on with our days:

I’m lusting for muse (or time and conviction) to get back on my third novel train. (Reunion of Saints, I know you’re in there.) I’m angry (and sort of grateful) that my thoughts wake me up at weird hours of the night and pull me by the fingertips to the keyboard. If either of my novels ever do make it to the best seller list, I would probably be greedy and want to do it again. If there was some coconut cream pie in my refrigerator, I’d probably eat it in glutton(y)ous bites between paragraphs of this blog. And I like Kristen Bell, but I don’t get her affinity for sloths.

I found a leak, I found a memory.

I’ve never journaled the traditional way, but I’m having fun with blogging, and my 16-year stint as a newspaper columnist provides a personal history log as I look back on my weekly musings. Fact is, of all the great reasons for journaling, one of the most satisfying is the opportunity to relive the precious moments that become lost as you move from one stage of life to another.

I got a kick out of this memory penned in the Dunwoody Crier back on October 3, 2001 and it’s one I included in my first book, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha,” a compilation of some of my favorite columns. Probably would never have remembered this had it not been written down, but this one is about my daughter Jackie when she was 9, and ironically, it’s about journaling!

(The Crier 10/03/01) I found a leak.If you make the effort to protect your personal identity and private information by shredding confidential papers and cutting up credit cards and then spreading the pieces between 12 different trash cans, allow me to offer this important advice: Check your child’s school journal.

It’s an exercise in creative, freestyle writing that most teachers have students do every morning to loosen the imagination and ready the brain for learning. It’s free-thought journal writing and I’m all for that kind of thing. At least I thought I was. Then I went to Parents’ Night and was invited to sit at my child’s desk and browse through her desk and journal. 

There in rigid cursive and number 2 pencil, was a full account of the morning I’d woken after a fitful night full of bad dreams that a shark was eating my purse. 

The morning I mistook the coriander for cinnamon and served it on toast? In there. 

Her older sister’s double-top-secret locker combination? In there, too.

A panoramic description of our front porch after the cat wrestled with and then left us a couple of sweet gifts? Right there in the school journal. 

Jackie Florence, the leaker.

I turned the page only to find a detailed chronicle of the day she was late for school because I had Clairol shade number 3488690 on my hair and had to wait to rinse. That could be found right above the exact words that came out of my mouth when some guy pulled out in front of me as I later took her to school — driving over the speed limit and with a towel wrapped around my head. 

After seeing the panic in the eyes of some of the parents as they read through these journals, the teacher assured us that she’d only believe half of what she heard about us, if we believed only half of what we heard from our kids about her. 

I suppose that means Mrs. Shepherd had some help when she hung the moon.

I was lucky that my 16 years of writing weekly columns for the Dunwoody Crier coincided with the growing-up years of our two daughters. While I started the column when Jill and Jackie were 6 and 8, the title story, “You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha” comes from a time near the end of that run and is about becoming an empty nester. It’s available via Amazon.

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How do you like them apples?

I found myself saying that to my husband this week. When was the last time I’d used that line? Maybe never. When was the last time I heard it? Possibly from one of my long-passed grandfathers, both who had a million of ’em. (insert Jimmy Durante’s cigar and ‘Wonk, wonk.’)

Like, “See ya in the funny papers!”

And, “You ain’t just whistling Dixie…” “Look that up in your Funk & Wagnall…” “He’s cruisin’ for a bruising.”

And “Heavens to Murgatroyd.” Who is Murgatroyd, anyway? Snagglepus seemed to know and I feel like it made sense when I watched Saturday morning cartoons, but now I’m not sure what I thought it meant.

I used the funny-paper line in my most recent novel, Three of Cups. I was no doubt channeling my own Pop when I created the grandfather character to Rachel’s portion of the story. In lieu of saying ‘goodbye,’ Rachel and her grandfather (cleverly disguised as Poppy) shared a routine of rounding their thumb and first fingers into ‘O’s, holding them up to their eyes, and peering at each other while simultaneously reciting the line.

Those who know me well know that I’ve made it a personal mission to keep ‘groovy’ in the vernacular, but I credit Tom Florence with holding down the fort with some oldies but goodies too. He shows his age (and his adorable charm IMHO) with lines like “That dog will hunt,” “Like white on rice,” “Seven ways to Sunday,” and “High as a cat’s back.”

Whenever we asked my dad where he was going, his favorite line was, “Downtown to buy Wheaties.” He loved Wheaties, and I loved it when he said that.

He also had a regular response to every gift he ever received—whether a pair of socks or the  surprise can of Barbasol he received from my sister Vicki for every occasion: “Well, I’ll be the grandest tiger in the jungle!” I loved that too.

Full disclosure: When I said to Tom, “How do you like them apples,” I actually said “potatoes” at first and then corrected myself. I’m not sure if he noticed. I’m not sure if he was listening.

But, time to move on…

See you cats in the sandbox!

Jeopardy fan (except for the punctuation).

The Oxford comma debate is a juicy one, but one I prefer to back away from. As a trained journalist, I’m happy to stand with my peeps and just say “no,” but I also recognize that it’s sometimes needed for clarity and in those cases, I’m not against dropping the curly punctuation mark behind the second to last of a serial list and moving on.

Am I a wimp for not caring deeper? Perhaps, as I understand it’s even a compatability category on Tinder. After all, how could an Oxford comma aficionado possibly match with a journalistic hold-out in the game of love (or friendly benefits, if that’s what you’re in to?) Fortunately for me, I’m positive Tom Florence has no opinion at all about its necessity in this world, likely doesn’t even know what the Oxford comma is, and would think I’m insane if he knew I was using up gray matter to blog about it. (See what I did there? I usually do add one in for long, wordy and drawn-out sentences. And hence no comma after wordy… Am I getting too wordy, by the way?)

I take issue with Jeopardy however.TswiftJeopardy

Commas and periods always go inside quotation marks. It’s a very simple and basic rule, and yes, Brits make some exceptions, but in the USofA, commas and periods always go inside the quotation marks.

“The end,” she said.

So why does Jeopardy do it wrong?

I’m certain they’ve heard the complaints. It sticks in my craw every time I see it. It should be 2009’s BEST FEMALE COUNTRY VOCAL WENT TO HER FOR “WHITE HORSE,” WHERE… (and no real need to be catty with the rest, Jeop writers.)

Is anyone else out there bugged by this? Please don’t suggest I just let it go because it’s been stewing for as long as I’ve been watching Jeopardy, and I’m pretty sure I still had braces then.

Instead, just let me know if it also bugs you. And if it doesn’t, what does? Where do you stand on the Oxford comma debate? Who has it right about quotation mark placement— the British or the Americans? Does TSwift rock? Should grammar nerds seek love on Tinder?

Feeling my way around the author world.

For those of you who have attended my A Novel Idea event, you know this: There are a kazillion (an exaggeration, but still you’d be surprised) number of local authors out there. I book six authors each month to talk for 10 minutes each about their published books at Crema, a Dunwoody coffee shop, and I could double that with the number of requests I have to participate.

For me, it’s a way to integrate myself into the author world; meet others like me; share tips and ideas; and feel, for a moment, like an on-the-cusp-of-famous author.

Truth is, we are all looking for the same thing: a means to share our stories and find readers for our work. For the past few years, it’s been my goal is to take a class and attend one writer’s retreat every year, and it always turns out to be some of my favorite days each year.

ReunionofSaintsfrontonlyI’m in the thinking mode for Novel No. 3; working title: Reunion of Saints. I’ve written about 14,000 words (a novel is usually around 80,000+) and I have a good start and a good outline, but I haven’t yet hit that surge where I can’t stop telling my story. Stupidly, and against all good-use-of-time logic, I’ve even designed a cover idea. It’s the story of four girls who meet at a fictional Catholic college in Georgia in the early ’80s. They solidify their friendship freshman year while on a rafting trip on the Chattooga River with a UGA fraternity.

Their friendship remains solid and though they all go their separate ways, they stay close over the years via Round Robin letters they share. Twenty years later, they come together for a week-long reunion and take a second rafting trip down the Chattooga. This trip, though, is much different from the first.

BTW, the next A Novel Idea is scheduled Tuesday, March 5, which happens to also be Fat Tuesday. Let me know if you need more details. It’s free and fun.


Parameciums, hypotenuses and the aftermath.

What’s your favorite word?

I like serendipity, hootenanny and ubiquitous. I think rainforest is cool. And I can totally groove on groovy.

I dont’ like phlegm, mucus, aftermath or stool. And as far as products go, just hearing the words Kaopactate and Quarter Pounder sends me retching.

UnknownParameciums and hypotenuse are two words I distinctly remember branding into my brain when I was in high school. Not just because they were fun to say, but because I learned what they were and knew I’d never forget. I didn’t, but I can’t recall either has ever come in handy in conversation since. In fact, parameciums aren’t even what they were then. We were taught that they were the smallest single-cell organisms on earth, and since that time I think scientists have found about 40 billion smaller things. I still like hypotenuse, though. If I ever get a goldfish, I might name it Hypotenuse.

Some people don’t like moist. I can live with that one, though if I think about it too hard, it takes me back to a nasty-ass hotel room I stayed in once.

Ass is another word I kind of like. Mostly used like above. It’s a good suffix to words like crazy- and silly- and big-, as in “That’s a big-ass cupcake.”

Aftermath is without question my least favorite.  It never describes anything but terror or destruction. By definition, I suppose it could be used to describe what happens after something good, i.e., the aftermath of the sunshine and spring rainfall brought out the tulips, but I’ve never heard it used that way.

What’s your favorite and least favorite words?

Sneak peek at my Valentine to you.

VDaymemeBe the first to know… I’m offering a free download for “Three of Cups” on Thursday!

Speaking of Valentine’s Day, I have some random thoughts:

Once—I think it was Mrs. Sanders’ 4th grade—we had a substitute teacher the week of Valentine’s Day. We’d all brought in empty Kleenex boxes so that we could decorate our Valentine’s mailboxes, and on the day of decoration, we had the sub.

I covered my box with pink construction paper and the substititute teacher thought that was dumb. She pretty much said so.

“Red is for Valentine’s Day,” she said. “Not pink.”

I didn’t try to come up with a reply, because I thought she was kidding. Pink is the closest color to red. It’s a desaturated version. Pink is a tint of red, vs. maroon or burgandy, which is a shade. Add white=tint. Add black=shade. I wanted pink construction paper to backdrop my Valentine’s box that I added hearts cut with Mrs. Sanders’ pinking shears and paper doilies edging out the opening to. I thought it was fabulous.

She wasn’t kidding though. She really thought that my design was dumb. So dumb that she felt it necessary to tell a 4th grader so. I don’t know why I remember that, but I do.

I remember something else too.

My friend Debbie had a boyfriend named Jeff. He gave her a box of candy conversation hearts for Valentine’s Day and she shared them with me on the bus. They tasted terrible. We figured out— and the next day he confirmed— that he’d sprayed the box of candy (no Cellophane, by the way. It was a long time ago.) with his mother’s perfume. Chanel No. 5, I think. We could taste it.

Download the book here:


Thoughts on rollercoaster riding, googling and a favorite author.

downtownIt seems I should be used to rollercoaster riding. My life in the real estate industry is either up or down, but never either for very long.

Getting my new book out is sending me on a wild ride too. Getting close had me flying high. Finding a whole bunch of missing words and a couple of typos — AFTER SUBMITTING FOR READER REVIEWS —(forever grateful to astute beta reader Ellen Lange, though) I was back down again.

The goofs are fixed in plenty of time for the July 1 release of “Three of Cups,” but it’s got my heart racing just the same.

But here’s the next high: I was googling to find and connect with some of the bloggers who had posted reviews for “Jaybird’s Song” and stumbled upon this:

Kirkus Reviews — the grand poobah of reviewers in the book publishing industry — has recommended “Jaybird’s Song” for readers who like Anne Rivers Siddons’ book, “Downtown.”

ARS is a favorite of mine, and several people have mentioned our styles being somewhat similar, but Day-am! Kirkus Reviews thinks so too?

I’m riding high. At least, for the moment.

Would you buy this book?

THREEOFCUPSCOVERONLYTHREE women: Mandy, a determined young mother raises her son alone when husband Adam is drafted in the U.S. Army. Ginger, a lonely new bride waits for her husband’s return from Vietnam. And Rachel quits her high-pressured job with a burgeoning company to seek her next adventure.

TWO time periods: Against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, their stories begin in the early 1970s and converge almost three decades later.

ONE secret: A secret lies dormant before threatening to undo all their lives.

Tying them all together are the eccentric Millie, who mixes up vocabulary words and dabbles in the tarot; Mandy’s impersonal family that she strives to transcend; and Oodles and Poppy, Rachel’s grandparents that provide the stable grounding she seeks.

Artfully entwined, you’ll root for all three women because ultimately, “Three of Cups” is the story of female friendships and unshakable bonds.

Would you buy this book?

What color do you think is most appealing?