Thank you, Catholic School

This past week, I’ve been editing my latest book. Being an Indie Author, I don’t have the budget at this time to afford an editor. And, as much as I’d love to hand over the task to a professional while I move on to my next project, I think I’ve done a pretty darn good job editing my own books, both the grammar and the content. I have learned how to “kill my darlings.” And that’s not easy! I haven’t received a single book review that complained about poor writing and/or grammar. And that’s thanks, in part, to Catholic school. Of course, I didn’t think so during the time I was attending Catholic school. I’d much rather have been at the public school because they had cool classes like Drama and Band. My little school couldn’t afford those luxuries. I think a good portion of the tuition money was funding the monsignor’s drinking habits, but I digress.

Anyway, as I was editing my new book, I had visions of diagramming sentences on a green chalkboard in fifth grade. And sixth grade. And seventh grade. I recall spending a week or so on sentence diagrams in my Freshman English class. At that time, I didn’t know that the practice of sentence diagramming had been virtually eliminated from the public school system. Today, there’s not one mention of it in the Common Core.

Do YOU know what sentence diagramming is? Were you taught this in school?

SentenceDiagram
The design firm Pop Chart Lab has taken the first lines of famous novels and diagrammed those sentences. 

I guess some kids found the process frustrating. Not me. I LOVED it. Maybe that’s because I love WORDS in general. Reading them. Writing them. As soon as I learned how to write, I spent hours putting words together on paper in a way that told a story that made my mom smile.  (Diagram that sentence). How lucky I was to attend a school that taught ‘old school.’

So, thank you Sister Rose, Sister Muriel, Sister Julie and Sister Pat. I bet you’re all living it up in heaven, those golden rulers at the ready to smack some wayward angel-in-training on the back of the hand.

Oh, and I DO believe in the Oxford Comma. Thanks for that, too!

Happy Reading!

P.S. If you enjoy my writing style, you might enjoy my books. Sweet (not treacly!), Clean, Old-Fashioned Romance with endearing characters and a good dose of humor.

Book Cover Reveal and Contest

Book Three in my King’s Valley Romance Series will be available for pre-order in just a few days! I’m so pleased with the final cover. I didn’t want to stray from the design of the first two books. TRODW_b_500I think all books in a series should have the same cover format for consistency. Don’t you? Anyway, the couple on the cover are exactly how I imagined my Hero and heroine. From the backside. Haha! I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I prefer romance book covers that don’t show too much (if  anything at all) of the main characters’ faces. I’d rather leave that to my imagination.

By the way, Book Four in this series is heading your way this May.  Oh, did I mention that I’m giving away one signed print edition of The Return of Devin Wakefield?

Enter Here! [Contest has ended] The only requirement is that you follow my blog. And why wouldn’t you? Then you’ll be the first to know about future contests, giveaways, sneak peeks, and other fun stuff, including fascinating (no, really) insights into the life of a romance writer.

Happy Reading!

UPDATE 3/22/2018  Congrats to Lindsey on winning one free print edition of this book! I am amazed that her name is so close to the name of the heroine in the book: Lindy. It was meant to be!

RCWinner

The Summer Day

WildLife

It’s been a long, cold winter in northwest Montana. There have been many mornings where it’s been too bitter cold to take my dog, Annie, for the longer, rambling walks along the river that we enjoy so much the rest of the year. We long for warmer days without slippery ice and frostbitten fingers. She’s dreaming of those days now, lying on her bed in my office while I write my next book. Winter is beautiful here, but we hope the warm weather is coming soon. I look up to my bulletin board for inspiration and read this lovely poem by Mary Oliver.  And then I continue to write my book. That is one of the many things I’m doing with my one wild and precious life. And I love it. I hope her beautiful words give you inspiration, too.

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention,
how to fall down into the grass,
how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed,
how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, 1992

Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver

Sleeping Annie

The Observant Writer

My most liked tweet for the month of February was this one:

Flannery

Considering that most of my twitter followers to-date appear to be other writers, it doesn’t surprise me that Flannery’s words resonate.

I imagine that many of my fellow writers were a lot like me when they were little. The quiet one at the family dinner table. The one who was perfectly content to sit alone at recess, watching what my classmates were doing, absorbing the sights and sounds for a story that wouldn’t be written until a few decades later. But a concerned teacher mistook my happy solitude for loneliness. I soon learned that it was better to play with everyone else instead of sitting in my corner, otherwise my classmates would think I was weird.

Fast forward to today and you will find a drawer full of jotted down observations in my home office filing cabinet. Little notes gleaned from staring and from listening.  Like these:

  • Thursday night. US Airways shuttle, La Guardia, end of terminal, June sunset, about a dozen people in waiting area for gates 15-22. Quiet. Business travelers only.
  • Overheard (Rittenhouse Square): “You’re sleeping man. Your world is gray.”
  • (New York) Steam rising from sidewalk grid. Smell of rotting vegetables. No one is looking up.
  • Overheard while in line at Dunkin’ (Warwick, RI): “Eddy’s in prison right now…”

Which reminds me of one of the funniest random lines I overheard a few years ago in a little ranching town somewhere between Calgary, Alberta, Canada and the Montana border. I was on a road trip with my parents and we stopped for lunch at one of those hole-in-the-wall places where all the locals go. Ragged linoleum flooring, dusty plastic flowers in the window box, faded newspaper clippings taped to the walls. We were the only customers other than a group of six middle-aged rancher women who were apparently there for their weekly gossip. At first, we were too busy enjoying our delicious Alberta Beef burgers to pay much attention to what our fellow diners at the neighboring table were saying until I overheard this tidbit: “Yep. Frank’s just never been the same since that time he fell off the roof and hit his head. Such a shame…”

I did a little lean closer to their table to hear the rest of that conversation. I really, really wanted to know what had happened to Frank. What was he doing on the roof in the first place? And the WAY the woman said those words—almost gleefully, like it served Frank right that he’d been stupid enough to fall off that roof… Then I caught my mom’s eye. Uh-oh. Within seconds the two of us were stuck in one of the biggest giggle fits I’ve ever had in my life, tears streaming from our eyes. My dad, who didn’t know why we were laughing, couldn’t help but laugh too. I was aware of those women looking at us, so I pretended we were laughing at something my dad had said. When they got up to leave soon after, my mom and I were still giggling. I think my dad waved at the women and told them to have a good afternoon.

One thing I have heard my dad say many, many times over the years is “Observation is the key to success.” That applies to anything. For writers it means never stop staring, never stop listening. Observe. Observe. Observe. Shamelessly.

I still want to know what happened to Frank. I’ll have to imagine the rest of his story and put him in one of my books.