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Death of a Sequel

Those of you who followed the progress of my YA novel RIDDLE OF THE SAMOVAR via blog posts of 2014 (A-Z or Z-A) might be wondering whether the book has been published. I must confess that it was never finished. Less than halfway through, after an investment of several years' plotting, I admitted to myself - and to any who would listen - that I was flogging a dead horse.

For whatever reason - unfamiliarity with Texas high school culture in the '70s, being forced to fit events into a precise historical timeline (the Iran hostage crisis) or just plain busy-ness in my non-writing life - this was a failed romance. Much as I enjoyed researching the era and watching my characters from SECRET OF THE SEVENTH GATE start a new adventure, the time had come to close the drawer on all my notes for possible future use, or not.

This freed me up for other projects! I will have two books out this fall - a poetry collection, CATCHING THE TRADE WINDS, and an illustrated London alphabet, X MEANS TEN ON THE FACE OF BIG BEN. Read More 

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From “76 Trombones” on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of “Blaze Away,” to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.

Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.

Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer, the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.

Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small—reminders of why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check. A napkin from Cherilyn’s launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”

Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.

Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.

And another. And another.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do. Read More 

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I hobbled across the plush carpet to the elevator, and jabbed the UP arrow. The doors whooshed open.

A woman with long blonde hair, fiftyish, stood inside cradling a manuscript, much bulkier than mine. She stepped aside as I entered the lift. I acknowledged my fellow author with a brief smile, before pressing the 6th floor button.

The woman looked alarmingly familiar as she glanced down at my surgical boot.

“Nasty accident?” Her vowels were distinctly Transatlantic.

I chuckled grimly. “You don’t want to know.”

How could I explain that I’d broken my foot on a stack of her hefty hardbacks at a midnight launch party, in a Barnes & Noble store that denied shelf space to my paperback YA mysteries? All my writing life I’d wanted to rub shoulders with such a literary giant, a rags-to-riches success, for the luck to rub off on me. On school visits, kids had asked me whether I knew her, being from the same country.

Now I had the chance, and all I could think of was my throbbing, swollen foot. I seethed with resentment and envy.

We reached our floor, the offices of the Acquisitions Editor. But as I limped out, I thrust a pen and a sticky note under the author’s nose.

“May I have your autograph for my nephew, please, Ms. Rowling? He loves Harry Potter.” Read More 
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A Poem a Day Keeps Detractors at Bay

When I retired from teaching and moved to rural Kansas, I needed a routine in order to pursue my second vocation, freelance writing. Over the years I had saved enough pretty letterheads from rejections to decoupage two trashcans, but also published magazine pieces, two poetry chapbooks, and two middle-grade mysteries. In theory, with so much extra time at my disposal, it should be possible to submit even more manuscripts and widen my audience.

On the other hand, it was tempting to sleep late, take craft classes, read all the books on my bucket list, and make new friends in the community. If I wasn't careful, writing and writing-related activities would be squeezed out of my schedule. So, I bought a colorful, user-friendly planner and wrote the acronym POEMS down the left margin of each day for the coming week.

P = Promotion:
Whatever puts my name and book titles out there in the public eye. Update my web site. Post news and evites on Facebook. Contact a store or school. Print bookmarks.

O = Overarching:
Sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, add new words to the current work-in-progress. Do background research. Plot. Create character bios. Ask "What If?"

E = Exercises:
Clustering. Word Association. Writers' group homework. Prompts from poetry. Pages in Write-Brain Workbook. Nature walks with pocket notebook.

M = Markets:
Read Writers Digest. Send for magazine samples and guidelines. Look at online
catalogs online. Browse children's shelves at the library. Mail mss and queries.

S = Scripture:
Meditate on Daily Bread devotional. Prepare Sunday school lesson. Jot ideas for themes to write on. Pray my writing will reflect God's truth and enrich readers' lives.

Whenever I complete a task, large or small, in any order, I check the appopriate category in my planner. An overview of the past week shows me which areas need more attention. Often these activities overlap with other areas of life. Over lunch with friends I pass out brochures for my next book signing (P). Reading for pleasure counts if related to my work-in-progress (O). Catnaps can be productive if I write down my dreams (E). In the doctor's waiting room I study Highlights magazine (M). God's Word informs my words and nourishes my soul (S).

This simple acronym silences the voices in my head that tell me I'm not a real writer!  Read More 
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