A Writer’s Best Friend

Writing is hard work, not magic. It begins with deciding why you are writing and whom you are writing for. What is your intent? What do you want the reader to get out of it? What do you want to get out of it. It’s also about making a serious time commitment and getting the project done.”

– Suze Orman, finance editor and author.

Serious time commitment.  Getting the project done.  Talk about a couple of freckle-rattlin’ phrases!

Are there times when those words taste like vinegar to you too?  But they’re true, huh?  I think of it this way: A writer’s best friend isn’t the Internet.  It’s not a short-cut, a quick fix or even a thesaurus.    (This following gem of galatic insight will work a lot better if you can scare up a drum roll in your head.  Ready?  Okay.)  A writer’s best friend is – drum roll, please: Restlessness.


That’s right.  Restlessness.  Let me explain.

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And So It Barks…

If you’ve been reading along for any length of time – say, 20 minutes or so – you probably know I’ve always felt that the world should be divided into two main camps: Dog Lovers and Other. (If you’re a feline fan, sorry. Naw. Not really.) You may also know that I wrote a book about our good dog, Eve, who passed away around Christmas 2013. And that our house has been dog-less ever since.

In the finale of my recent blog post Christmas, Eve, I told you I’d have an update for you on the dog front. Well. Here she is:

Her name is Kimber.  About six months old. Isn’t she a beauty?

Kimber was quite the li’l nipper when she joined us in late August. She’s calmed down quite a bit since then. But she’s a puppy and excitable. If you come visit, I can pretty much guarantee she’ll think the sun rises and sets on you. And greet you accordingly. (I’d bring treats ‘fize you.)

Part Golden Retriever. Part Lab. Part Border Collie. All heart. Way smarter than me. I’m thinking of re-naming her. How does “Einstein” sound? Also in the running: “Cicero.” Or “Typhoon.”

wp-image-2116531908jpg.jpegIn the past few months since Kimber came to us via the local dog rescue outfit, she’s learned “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Down.” How to navigate 13 steps by herself. Let herself out. Open doors. Walk on a leash. NOT to eat Dad’s slippers. How to play football (sort of). Lie down while I write (most of the time. Nobody’s perfect.) And jitterbug.

Told you she’s way smarter than me.

I’ve called her “Eve” more than once. Call it a “Freudian slip.” They don’t even look alike. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have a dog in the house.  After getting Kimber, however, I can’t imagine having a dog-less house again.

I may even have to write about it. Again. 🙂

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2017 to your and yours, dear readers!

What are your writing goals for the new year?

Forever, Eve

Forever, Eve

A Dog’s Story

A Kitchen, a Corner and Christmas!

Fabulous chocolate fudge.  Spicy cocoa mocha mix.  Savory roast beef with red wine. Wassail with clove-studded oranges.  Fruitcake.

Well, okay.  Maybe not fruitcake.  But what are the holidays without festive food?

The Kitchen

Grandma Peggy's Kitchen Cover.1Is your mouth watering yet?  Good.  Because I’m opening a door to Grandma Peggy’s Kitchen (aka: my mom), an  ebook collection of holiday recipes, reminiscences and easy, inexpensive craft ideas to spruce up your home for the season!   Grab your copy here.

Man in the Corner

Speaking of which, Man In the Corner is another holiday-themed story based on real people. “Mr. Tom” is loosely based on my dad:

Man in the Corner Cover

Mae Taylor and her son Josiah just want to be left alone after the divorce. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, this unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from holiday traditions, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

Find it here.

If you enjoyed either one, a kind review would be appreciated. Thanks!

Irma, Honest Critics and Honey Trees

Public Domain

Know any “Irmas”?

Irma (not her real name) is one of those li’l black rain clouds who think it’s their mission in life to rain on everyone’s parade. Negativity drips of Irma like water off a duck’s back. She makes Eyeore look like the Energizer Bunny. A Turkish prison look like Club Med. So when this non-writer who’s never published a sentence beyond “See Spot. See Spot run” started in on my latest magnum opus, uninvited, I made her Queen for a Day.

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It’s Not About You

Fall sky off Riverside Bridge

“Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

– E.L. Doctorow

Writers are a rare breed.  As I’ve said before, a real writer is more of a writing “addict” than a hobbyist.  He or she writes because s/he can’t not write.  A real writer feels compelled to write, is bursting with ideas, stories, plots, metaphors, characters, a clever turn of the phrase.  One way to spot an amateur is someone who, when asked why they write, responds with something like, “Because I want to be famous” “I’m expressing myself;” or the omnipresent, “I have something to say.”  When you hear that, you’re not hearing from a real writer, but a writer wannabee.  As master editor Sol Stein explains:

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Warm Weather Whirlwind?

School’s out.  Finally.  Summer sure took her time getting here, eh?  She gimped onto the calendar with the alacrity of a crippled snail.  Even so, as every cell of my being opens to the long-lost sun, drinking in a taste of summer, I’m celebrating.  Sort of.

Why?  Well, have you noticed?  Summer is a con artist, spritzing myths into gullible ears like mist in a hothouse.

Examples? After the ninety-miles-an-hour-with-your-hair-on-fire frenetic pace of the school year, summer cons us into thinking we’re in for a “break.”  “Slow down,” she coos, “kick back.  Rest up.  Wind down.  After all, it’s summer!”

Warm weather whirlwind?

Oh, really?

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Like Nailing Jell-o to a Tree

Back when I was young and foolish – about twenty minutes ago – I thought that the best way to vaunt into the exclusive echelons of “serious writer” status was to mimic The Best.  So I tried sounding like John Steinbeck, Anton Chekov, Charles M. Schulz and company.  Well, okay.  Maybe not Chekov.  But every time I sat down to write I’d think, “How would Hemingway or Jane Austen or Charlie Brown approach this?”

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Write Away 5: What Pennzoil is to NASCAR

“If you’re a writer, you’re never retired by someone else.  You not only keep going, but the very art of writing helps keep you alive.”

– Sol Stein

Some select traits of a writer include:

  • Keen observation of events, people, conversations, and circumstances and color.
  • Do you find yourself mentally composing a narrative about your last fishing trip, hike in the hills, an historical landmark, family event, trip to the library, or holiday that will provide your readers with an “aha!” moment of recognition or connection?
  • Do you carry pen and paper or another recording device with you everywhere to jot down that fleeting thought or inspiration before it vanishes for all eternity?
  • Do you devour books and revel in good writing like a starving man in a five-star all-you-can-eat buffet?
  • Do you have an “ear” for fine writing?  I’m not talking dime store stuff or trashy “romances.”  I’m not even talking “bestseller’ status, but fine literature that’s stood the test of time: Dickens, Elliot, Dinesen, Twain, Dostoevsky,etc.?
  • Do you understand what makes “great literature” great, how it works and why?
  • Do you have an insatiable curiosity?
  • Are you constantly looking for ways to learn and grow as a writer?
  • Most real writers are also voracious readers.  If  “what are you reading these days?” elicits a shoulder shrug or a deer-in-the-headlights-looks from your “writer” friend, chances are you’re talking to a dabbler or a pretender, not the Real Deal.

“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Eric Liddell

Born to Write?

Ability and skill can be learned, developed, and practiced.  These are all well and good and appropriate. But IMHO, what sets a Real Writer apart  from a Writer Wannabee is attitude.  In other words: were you born to be a writer?

Writing is a gift to be treasured, honed, polished, and yes, shared.  It’s what keeps you banging away at the keyboard when everyone else is watching the play-offs.  It’s what awakens you at two in the morning with an aha! inspiration.  Writing is to a writer what a crate of PennZoil is to NASCAR, what air is to land mammals.

Who Are You?

Let me ask: Were you born to be a writer?

One way to find out is to look at your approach to writing.  Do you have a “take it or leave it” attitude, or is writing your reason to get up in the morning?  Is writing something you fall into when you don’t have anything better to do?  A way to kill time or fill up your calendar?  An amusement or hobby?  Or is writing something you crave like that extra slice of raspberry white chocolate cheesecake?  Do you carve time out of your busy schedule to write on a regular basis?  Is writing part and parcel of your creative DNA?  Your personality?  Artistic fingerprint?  Are you incomplete without it?  In other words, is writing who you are?

Being a real writer is a lifelong calling.  It has you preoccupied and passionate, cantankerous and content, frustrated and fulfilled.  It’s a wild and wonderful ride that can only be fully understood by another writer.

You know who you are.