WATCH: Soaring Rendition of Christmas Classic

There’s only one voice that does my #1 favorite Christmas carol justice: Andrea Bocelli. Aka: La Voce. Why? Cuz there’s nothing like hearing a world-class Italian tenor render O Holy Night like a world-class tenor. In the original French.

But, alas. Andrea has been dethroned by the Home Free vocal band. Watch their stunning a capella version of O Holy Night:

Now. Can someone please tell Mr. Black Hat to kindly lose his Stetson while inside a church?

Find out more about the country a capella quintet Home Free here.

What’s your favorite Christmas carol? Let us know with a comment.

Christmas ‘In the Corner’


Candles in the window. Lights up on the tree. Sleigh bells. Mistletoe. Apple-cheeked kids rushing in from a snowy sled run. Hot chocolate and marshmallows. Carols and cantatas. Family. Friends. And…  loneliness so thick and heavy, it could crush a camel.

Yes, friends. The holidays aren’t full of fa-la-la-la-la-ing for everyone. In fact, this can be an especially tough time of year for some. Those facing a job loss or a cut in income. A divorce. An involuntary move. The frostiness of an unresolved conflict. Bad news from the doctor. Betrayal. Feeling utterly alone in the middle of a crowd. Too much money at the end of the month. Distance. One less place set at the table. One less gift under the tree.

If you’ve been there or are there, you know what I mean. And how difficult the holidays can be. Especially if you’re Alone. Or feel that way.

I hear you. It’s one reason I wrote Man in the Corner: A Holiday Story. About newly divorced Mae Taylor and her son Josiah. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, the unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from Gettysburg, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

But I’m also doing something I rarely do here: recommending another author’s novel. With three thumbs up.

It’s called The Mistletoe Secret. By Richard Paul Evans, a perennial favorite. Without giving too much away, it’s a touching, moving story about two lonely people, Alex and Aria, who brave rejection and loss to find love. Exquisitely written as only Evans can, The Mistletoe Secret is vintage Richard Paul: Honest without being preachy. Hopeful without being sappy. Uplifting and fine. About 306 pages. I read it cover-to-cover in about five hours.

While we’re on the subject, I also want to offer a video to those who may be struggling this time of year. You’re not alone. Give this Mark Schultz piece a listen:

Grace. And Merry Christmas!


Book Brontosaurus, Mobile Devices, and Pizza

View from Fremont TrailI had to laugh. Not because the situation was funny, but because there wasn’t much else to do.

Yours truly exercised executive privilege the other day and took the kiddos swimming at the local YMCA. Along with half the population of the Free World.

It seemed like a good idea at the time: a warm, blue, postcard-perfect summer day. An open afternoon. A recently renewed Y membership. A heated indoor pool. Almost-clean towels. (Nobody’s perfect.)

Continue reading

A Note of Thanks

Pumpkins in wagon

I wanted to take a moment to thank those of you who’ve recently joined our little Roads Diverged family. There have been quite a few. Glad to have you. Welcome aboard!

A few house-keeping items:

  1. The holidays are just around the corner. I traditionally focus on the holidays during the holidays. I’m just funny that way. So stay tuned for further flashes of seasonal brilliance and frivolity.
  2. If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see addressed on the blog, holler. Never did get that mind reader thing down very well. You have to speak up. As in, leave a comment.
  3. Writing-themed guest posts are encouraged. More on this soon. Keep an eye peeled.
  4. You can also find me on Facebook. Drop in and set a spell. Love to have you join us.

Thanks again. Don’t be a stranger!

Stormaggedon, A Kimber, and Frances  

It started Friday morning.

Stabs of lightning slit the pre-dawn gloaming. Rain falls in sheets. A late afternoon voice mail from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management in coastal southwest Washington confirms the worst: A powerful storm is on its way. A severe weather watch in effect. Heavy rains. Possible coastal flooding. (That can include us.) Hurricane force winds expected. Batten down the hatches. Start scouting supplies of gopher wood.

Stormaggedon is on its way.

So we act. Neat rows of canned goods and non-perishable items are stacked in the basement in snap-to precision. Bottled water, sundry items and other staples? Check. Check. And check. Husband Chris ventures out for more water. More canned goods. Extra puppy chow. Batteries. Sand bags. Laundry and dishes are all caught up. Plans in place. The basement is at ground level. Living quarters on the second floor.

We are ready.

So I finger an old favorite, crack its spine and dive in.Under the Tuscan Sun seems incongruous today. But a favorite is a favorite, regardless of weather. Two hundred and eighty pages redolent with France Mayes’ delicious descriptions of her restoration of an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. Incandescent, the text drips with the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Under the Tuscan Sun is the kind of tome you tuck into a summer picnic basket. Or wrap yourself around during what’s forecast to be one of the ten worst storms ever in Northwest experience.

It’s mid-morning. We decide to augment our emergency supplies. Husband Chris heads out to do so. I keep an eye on the rising river a block away, watching at the window for his return. Forty-five minutes tick by with the speed of a growing redwood.

After unloading the additional supplies, I rejoin Frances. Moments later I am adrift in a sea of Italian terra cotta, palazzi, gelato, padrones and Chianti. Puppy Kimber sleeps soundly at my feet. She rolls over and stretches, chest gently rising and falling in contented slumber.

By 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Grays Harbor Emergency Management issues an update:




Updated at 11:30AM     Saturday, October 15, 2016

The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated a powerful storm is approaching and will affect the region Saturday afternoon into Sunday. The system brings significant wind, rain and potential coastal flood issues. Power outages of significant duration could affect numerous areas throughout the county during this storm.

Residents are urged to prepare for this Storm immediately.  Grays Harbor County Emergency Management and county public safety agencies are recommending residents to stay home and not go out unless they absolutely have to. Residents are urged to make sure they have adequate supplies for possible power outages; this includes drinking water and food on hand.

Mindful of the clock, I take the puppy out around 2:00 in the afternoon. Whipped by the wind, the junipers bow to the ground. Part Golden Retriever, part Lab and part Border collie, Kimber is a black and white blur. She dislikes getting wet and regards rain as a personal affront. Her collie ears flap in the wind like the Wright Flyer. She’s in a hurry, shaking off itinerant raindrops in a rush to get back inside.

Soon after, the winds kick up another notch. Debris rains down from alders and big leaf maples, skipping merrily out to God-only-knows-where. The Wi-Fi connection flutters in and out like a drunken butterfly. Kimber shifts in her sleep but doesn’t wake unless I cantilever myself out of the recliner.

I envy Frances Mayes and her villa’s fireplace, large enough to sit in. “I think most Italians have a longer sense of time than we do,” she writes. “What’s the hurry? Once up, a building will stand a long, long time, perhaps a thousand years. Two weeks, two months, big deal.”

A severe storm? Two hours, two days, two weeks, big deal. I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

The winds picks up around 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Nipping at the eaves, its insect whine increases to a howl an hour later.  Out of state friends and family phone and text. Are you okay? What’s it like along the coast? We are fine. High and dry. So far. So good.

Hunkered down in the living room, we watch the USC Trojans clobber the Arizona Sun Devils. In Arizona. It’s sunny, clear and blue on the gridiron. Temperatures in the eighties. I look outside at the waterlogged lawn, the gutters spitting out rain, and laugh.

The NOAA weather radio informs us, in tenor monotone, that the Columbia River Bar has closed. No boats in or out. He drones on about nautical miles. High surf advisories. Severe weather warnings and “sneaker” waves. And oh yes, don’t go out on the beach in this weather unless you’re a complete idiot (he doesn’t use those exact words, but that’s what he means).

The wind howls like a banshee. Frogg-Toggged, I take Kimber out again, snatching a few minutes from the elements.  Frances and Ed Mayes try to decide on what to renovate/upgrade first – the leaky roof or central heating.

The Trojans trounce the Sun Devils. Then it’s Stanford vs. Notre Dame. At South Bend, Indiana. The five o’clock hour presents a dilemma: more football or Dodger vs. Cubs chasing the National League pennant at Wrigley Field. Maeda takes the mound for the Blue Crew. The umpires prayer huddle before the first pitch. I love this game.

We eat baked chicken with a White Zinfandel. There’s a break in the rain. The wind subsides. It’s expected to run like a three year-old at the Kentucky Derby later. After four and half innings, it’s not looking good for Team Los Angeles.

The weather scanner reports a “100 percent chance of precipitation” for Saturday and Sunday. Possible thunderstorms. High winds expected through 11:00 p.m. Saturday. Storm warnings. Fog. He drones on. Rain lashes the house like a mad buggy driver.

By 6:30 p.m., passing cars have switched their windshield wipers off. Somber prognostications of Stormaggedon seem far-fetched. The Dodgers catch up with the Cubs. I head to the kitchen. Kimber follows. Chris and I drain steaming mugs of hot cocoa, mini-marshmallows floating like white islands. And wait. At this point the grim prognostications seem like Much Ado About Nothing.

My sister calls from California. Yes, we’re okay. Eighty-plus degrees there? Nice.

Two and a half hours after Game One of the NL pennant race began, it’s the top of the seventh. Chicago is up by two. The winds are kicking up again, tossing buckets of rain from gray-cement skies.

Suddenly it’s the top of the eighth. Dodgers have tied it up, 3 to 3. Hope springs eternal! Bottom of the eighth. The Cubs’ Miguel Montero drills a grand slam homer over the right field wall, putting the game out of reach for the Dodgers. Seconds later, before he’s rounded the bases, we lose the satellite feed.

Dang it!

Not long after, I receive this email message from the Grays Harbor Emergency Management:

The Grays Harbor County Emergency Coordination Center will be closing at 8:00 pm tonight. The National Weather Service in Seattle has indicated that the storm has passed.

Luckily this very strong storm passed farther out to sea than expected and had very little impact upon the county.

We will always prepare for the worst, yet hope for the best. Luckily, we had little impact from the storm this time. Next time we may not be as fortunate.

Thank you for your cooperation and diligence throughout these two storm events. Your preparation efforts and confidence in our alert messaging would have limited any impact the storm might have caused if it passed closer to our county.

The winds pick up. Rain tumbles down in sheets. We wonder about the National Weather Service.

Baseball-less, we pop in Gettysburg on disc. Again. Winds blow in around 10:00 p.m.. But they are toothless and hollow.

Suddenly it’s Sunday. The lights are still on. The basement is high and dry. Emergency supplies untouched. The winds have settled down. Rain subsides to a soggy threat.

Image result for tuscan countryside

The Dodgers lose. Kimber chomps her breakfast. The Etruscan wall necklacing Frances’ villa is rebuilt. The weed-choked cistern cleaned. The roof fixed. Central heating in place. Aging interior polished to its former patina and newly planted herb gardens blooming, Frances’ restored villa gleams in the Tuscan sun. Blue and gray, overhead skies here clash like troops at Gettysburg. But the worst, it seems, is over.

How Not to Write ‘Smart’

Public domain

I was at a conference the other day. Six of us arrived early. Snagged a table and grabbed seats while we waited for the emcee to get the ball rolling. Ninety seconds after we sat down, every other person around the table was buried in his Smartphone (you know who you are). I sat there for a minute, gaping like a cod fish. Then I smiled sweetly and chirped:

“Hey guys. I hear there’s this cool new game out. It’s called ‘conversation.’ I hear it’s kinda fun. How ’bout it?”

Heads snapped up. Electronically-glazed eyes re-focused.

Continue reading

When “Free” Isn’t, And What You Can Do About It

His “book launch team” was going to make a big splash.  In return for reading and reviewing his new title, Mr. Book Launch offered some freebies and insider goodies – if you made the cut.

That’s right.  His invitation to “join the team” required an application.  He wanted social media stats, Facebook numbers, promo ideas.  And his invitation was exclusive to “big fish.”

Another blogmeister advertised a *free* webinar on how to generate a ton of traffic to your blog.  He included one of seven tips.  To get the rest, you had to sign up for his other seminar – for $497.  The balance of his *free* presentation was a sales pitch for the not-so-free “real deal.”

Are You a Would-Be Whale?

Commenting on the above, someone said, “The writing biz is hard enough without locking people out, tangling them up in nets.  How does one writer say ‘no’ to another writer who’s willing to help?  What kind of ‘teamwork’ is that?”  Someone else asked, “What’s with, ‘sorry, you’re not a big enough fish.  This offer limited to whales only’?”  Another wondered, “What about writers who don’t have $497 to spend on more razzle-dazzle – they’re just outta luck?”

No one likes being turned down, not even for an unpaid gig.  No one likes having doors close because they can’t afford the price of admission. I’m willing to bet that at least some of the people Mr. Big Shot and Mr. Not-So-Free turned away weren’t only willing to do promotional work gratis, they may also have been writers who wanted to learn and who could use reciprocal exposure the most.

How many would-be whales were left flapping their flukes?  How ’bout you?

Let’s Start an Avalanche!

That’s why I’m launching Avalanche.  Think rush.  Flood.  Landslide.  Writers helping writers.

No application required.  I won’t even ask how many followers you have.  Really.

Sound good?  If you’re looking to gain exposure for your work and build your audience, simply respond with, “I’m in.”

Or check out: Avalanche!