Saturday, July 24, 2010

Prologue - Island Passage


Perry Monument, Lake Erie - June, 1968
A summer thunderstorm, deep-throated and black as midnight, moved across Lake Erie from the north, pressing into South Bass Island. Ten-year-old Francine Douglas dumped the last of her ice-cream cone into a trash container as the first drops of rain splattered against the sidewalk. Turning on the heels of her new white Keds, she made a mad dash across the wide plaza of the Perry Monument to where her mother waited for her at the entrance.
“Hurry!” Marian Douglas shouted through the downpour for her daughter to run faster, faster! A fierce gust of wind whipped over the pavement, rolling a paper cup across the concrete, snapping at the line of flags at the edge of plaza. The air smelled both sweet and sour, like crushed flowers and moist earth — like the breath of God, Himself. A tingling sensation raised the fine hairs at the back of Francine’s neck mere seconds before lightning flashed across the black sky. BOOM! The thunder blasted like a battle cannon over her head.
“Fran-cine!” Her mother screamed into the storm, visibly frantic. Marian firmly pressed her hand into the shoulder of the tall, gangly girl who stood beside her. The girl’s face held no expression; her arms hung limp at her sides as the wind caught in her long, dark hair and billowed out the front of her faded, oversized blouse.
Jealousy prickled up the back of Francine’s neck seeing her mother’s hand on the shoulder of the strange girl her family had taken in for the summer months. Although they were the same age, Claudia Angelo was practically a freak, towering over most girls their age, not offering so much as a friendly smile when she’d stepped off the ferry that afternoon. Unlike Francine, blonde, rosy-cheeked and well-fed, Claudia appeared to be no more than skin and bones, her hair black as coal, accentuated by an alabaster complexion and dark, vacant eyes.
Marian turned Claudia to face her and pointed that she was to stay put. She then rushed out into the rain and grabbed hold of her daughter’s elbow, giving it a parental jerk. “You straighten up right now, young lady. Stop pouting.”
“Not pouting,” Francine sassed back. “I’m sick.” When they reached the overhang of the monument, Francine glared up at Claudia, not bothering to mask her spite at having to spend the summer with this skinny, ugly girl who refused to talk to anyone. Francine’s brother, Matthew, had already nicknamed the girl Clodhopper.
Francine didn’t know much about Claudia, except for what she’d overheard her parents say late one night after tiptoeing down the back stairway and into the kitchen for a glass of milk. She had hugged the wall, listening to her mother and father talk in hushed tones about someone named Claudia and how her mother had been arrested for something really bad—murder. Francine’s father, a criminal attorney, had been asked by the court to defend her, pro bono, and her father would have done that, except Francine’s mother insisted he hand the case over to another law firm. That way, her mother could offer the child a home for at least the summer months. No surprise. Her mother often took in foster children, but usually little ones, four or five years old, and never during the summer months. The summer months were for family. She had missed the rest of her parents’ conversation because just then her mother caught her eavesdropping and shooed her off to bed.
Marian led the girls into the rotunda of the towering 352 foot monument. “Go,” she ordered, moving them forward. She wearily pulled the scarf from her head and wiped the rain from her face.
Joe Douglas waited in the line for the observation deck, one hand firmly gripping Matthew’s shoulder. Her older brother looked irritated, probably ticked off their dad wouldn’t let him run wild with Tank and Navy Bean, his island buddies. Matthew was a prankster, a real tease. Already, at the age of ten, Francine had it pretty much figured out that boys got away with a whole lot more stuff than girls ever got away with.
Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Navy Bean took a flying leap at Matthew and playfully poked him in the gut. Matthew instantly broke loose from his father and darted after his friend.
“Matthew Douglas! Get back here!” Marian wadded up the scarf and stuffed it into her skirt pocket. She left the girls in line with her husband and started out after Matthew. Claudia backed up, accidentally bumping into Francine who then made a point of brushing off her shoulder as if Claudia had a case of the cooties.
Claudia lowered her head and mumbled, “Excuse me.”
Next in line to board the elevator, Francine pulled back on her father’s hand. “Daddy, I don’t feel so good. I don’t want to go up there.”
Her father scowled down at her. “Don’t be silly. We’ve waited in line all this time.” He patted the top of Claudia’s head. “Claudia’s not scared. See–”
“Daddy,” she interrupted, not wanting to hear about how brave Claudia was. “Honest. My stomach hurts awful.”
Her mother then reappeared with Matthew, one hand bunched around the collar of his shirt, the other she deftly placed on Francine’s forehead. “Joe, maybe she’s coming down with that summer flu going around. You go on with Matthew and Claudia. We’ll stay down here and wait.”
“If she’s sick, it’s only because of that double scoop of ice cream she just had to have.” Her father made an aggravated sound deep in his throat, jaw muscles working in a way that meant he’d had about all the shenanigans he could stand for one day.
Matthew crept up behind his sister and made retching noises down the collar of her shirt. “Fatso-watso ate too much.”
“Did not.” Francine gave Matthew a hearty shove.
“Did so.” He shoved her back.
“Mommm,” Francine whined. “Make him stop.”
Her father leaned over, clasping both knees, eye-to-eye with his daughter. His voice softened. “Now, pumpkin, once we get to the top, you’ll be okay. I’ll hold your hand the whole time.” Reluctantly, she followed him into the crowded elevator where she ended up wedged between two women who smelled a lot like the flowers people had sent to her grandmother’s funeral. She stopped breathing until she got to the top. And just when she thought her lungs might burst from lack of air, the elevator door opened and a gust of wind swept through from the observation platform. She retreated into the corner of the elevator, but her father pulled her out.
Overhead, big cottony puffs of clouds moved against a new blue sky, making it feel as if the monument itself were swaying back and forth. Francine could barely catch her breath in the wind. Desperate to stop the wooziness inside her head, she grabbed her father around the waist. She closed her eyes tight in a last ditch effort to calm the churning sensation inside her stomach.
The wind made it hard to hear. Somewhere faraway she heard her father talking. “Now, see, I was right, wasn’t I?” He tugged at her shoulder. “Look, over there, you can see the winery on Middle Bass. And see . . . through the trees, that’s our summer house.” He coaxed her to the railing. “Come on.”
She squinted up at her father. For one instant her stomach seemed fine, but then it wasn’t fine. In one awful heave, she vomited—everywhere.
“God, almighty!” Her father jumped out of the way, shaking vomit from his hands. Marian unsnapped her purse and pulled out two fresh handkerchiefs. She handed the first to Joe, using the second to wipe Francine’s mouth. “Oh, honey,” she said, brushing at the front of her daughter’s white J.C. Penney blouse. “I’m so sorry.”
Tourists on the crowded platform opened into a wide circle around Francine and the puddle on the deck. A mortified Francine hung her head, unsure her stomach was finished. Within earshot Matthew howled with laughter.
“Francine?” her mother whispered into her ear. “Are you all right?” Her mother’s arm went around her waist, drawing her close.
“I told you I was sick,” Francine moaned. “You made me come up here.” She aimed this remark at her father. “You made me!” She then buried her head in the folds of her mother’s soft cotton skirt and wiped her tears. It was from the safety of her mother’s embrace that she watched the next scene play out in slow motion. Claudia, stealthy as a cat, moved toward Matthew, her jaw locked and set for revenge.
“You-fucking-jerk,” Claudia said in a voice sounding much older than other girls their age.
Her mother gasped.
Francine’s jaw dropped open. She had no idea what the word meant, but she knew, if spoken out loud, a smack in the mouth would definitely follow. Francine pulled back from her mother, suddenly seeing Claudia in an entirely new light. Maybe this odd girl her parents had brought to the island wouldn’t be so boring after all.
Hearing the “F” word, her father stopped working the handkerchief up and down his trousers and glared up at Claudia. His face turned a scary fire engine red. Marian clutched at her throat. “Claudia, my goodness,” Claudia didn’t take her eyes off Matthew. He taunted her. “Hey Clodhopper. You’d better watch who you’re calling a jerk.” Without hesitation, Claudia drew back an arm and shoved a fist into Matthew’s nose. Pow! Blood spurted from his nostrils like a ketchup bottle given one too many whacks.
“Jesus!” Matthew’s hands flew to his nose. He sucked in short breaths and danced in place to keep from crying in front of his buddies who’d followed him up on the elevator. He looked about to explode with all the agony of holding in the pain.
Claudia stood her ground, fists up and ready to give him another punch, if necessary. Matthew quickly edged out of her reach.
Claudia’s eyes narrowed at his retreat. “She’s my friend. Don’t ever laugh at her again.” She stiffened her lower lip and protectively looped an arm through Francine’s. She gave Joe and Marian a satisfied smile.
Francine obligingly moved closer to Claudia. Her parents were horrified and obviously didn’t have a clue as to what they should do next. And Matthew? He finally lost his courage and started to cry like a ba-by.
Francine squeezed her new friend’s arm, smiling up at her, wanting to thank her for taking her brother out. This had turned out to be one fine day. And her stomach felt one hundred percent better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Contact Author at Books Available: Well Red Coyote in Sedona, AZ - Beehive Books in Delaware, Ohio - Antigone Books in Tucson, AZ - Old Livery Mercantile in Wickenburg, Az - Great Expectations in Logan, Ohio - Scenic Way Gifts in Creola, Ohio - Inn at Cedar Falls in Logan, Ohio - Ridge Inn in Laurelville, Ohio - Logan Art Gallery, Logan, Ohio

Monday, May 17, 2010


Commitment. This word even sounds intimidating, vibrating with a forboding sense of scary responsibility. Definitely not a soft word, like smooth or peaceful. With commitment, both your mouth and jaw actually have to "work" to pronounce the word.

Of course, you've probably guessed where I'm going with this. Commitment to anything in life brings with it a strength of purpose, constantly pushing us forward to some end, whether definable or indefinable. By indefinable, I'm saying that sometimes we don't exactly understand what it is that brings us to "square one" of a new project. Sometimes its a "calling" from within. Who knows where that new and exciting energy comes from. Some people might call it spiritual, fate or destiny. But however you want to look at it, commitment is definitely an energy word, a word that is not content to rest on its laurels, but constantly moves outward like the universe, creating space within space.

Being truly committed involves high, medium and low energy levels. The low cycles unfortunately bring moments of despair, when we want to give up and scrap what progress we've already managed to accomplish. The trick is learning to push through these dark energy levels and into the light of high energy. Nothing is easy. If writing were easy, everyone would be a writer. Any endeavor in life takes a deep sense of commitment. Persevere in spite of difficulties. True commitment builds character, and character feeds the need to complete. And if you sound out both words (character and commitment), you'll find the jaw muscles work with the same determination, both words strong, both using a distinctive drop of the jaw for pronunciation. Today, in your writing, be aware that energy always ebbs and flows. Recognize the low points, move on, and never give up!

Sunday, May 16, 2010


The world is amazing. When I opened my eyes this morning, I purposely looked at everything in the room with a new eye. Each item I had placed there, each item having a story behind it. The bedroom furniture we inherited, the lamp beside the bed came from an auction. The Navajo doll that sits on a handmade jewelry box, came from Sedona. Isn't it true, that after a number of years, the selected and beloved "things" often become overly familiar to us? The treasured items fall into a category of a chore, that is, keeping the dust off everything, the inspiration dulling after a series of years of looking at the same ol' things.

Approaching my writing today, I will attempt to see my characters in a new light, see them for all their beauty and flaws and with a sense of purpose for which I first brought them to paper -to tell a story that hopefully will not gather dust mid-way into the manuscript. Open your eyes!!! See the beauty in what has become familiar.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


A short blog today. Waiting on "proofs" of Island Passage. The cover art is gorgeous! I'm excited. While I wrote this story more than ten years ago, I had fun re-editing and getting it ready to be printed into book form. And when I receive the first complete copy, I will hold the new book to my nose and breathe in the smell of the paper, run my hands over the cover, and feel myself grin. What satisfaction. I love writing stories of the human heart, stories that reach out and hold hands with the hearts of other women. I love the toughness and softness of our souls, stubborn and yet quiet and reflectful of every experience bringing us forward in our individual lives. As women, I believe we deeply understand the unification of past, present and future, each phase entwined into the tough fabric of living. We lose, we gain, we give birth to new hope.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


It's raining. We needed this "soaker." Looking forward to putting out the annuals and rejuvenating the flower beds. Rejuventation. That's my magic word today. Webster New World Dictionary defines the word rejuvenate: to make young or youthful again; bring back to youthful strength, appearance, etc. Well, considering I'm a little past youth, I think I land in the etc. part of this definition. Nonetheless, spring does bring a sense of youthfulness. I remember a time when I thought growing old would be a long time off, that all the older people would always stay old, and I would always stay young. Do you remember the old movie It's a Wonderful Life, where the old man sitting on a porch swing tells Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart that life is wasted on youth? Or, like Benjamin Button, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to live our lives in reverse, that way we might appreciate our youth, maybe even bring a halt to all the bickering in the world and make us more respectful of how beautiful it is to be young. But, one the other hand, it's nice being my age and spending a quiet Sunday morning rocking on the back porch, rejuventating my tired bones while listening to the rain, drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying the moment. You see, I'm fussy about my coffee. I like it medium strength in my favorite mug with a little cream. No sugar. You see, as a person gets older, rejuvenation takes place more on the inside than the outside. As I said before, I fall more into the etc. part of Webster's definition.

Friday, April 30, 2010


Just read Kitty Kelley's book on Oprah. I'm still shaking my head, trying to understand the purpose of this book. I suppose anyone who has had a taste of fame, knows the down-side, that eventually someone somewhere is going to chip away at their character and analyze all their flaws since birth. There are people out there who make big bucks making those in the limelight appear deceitful and greedy. Truth has many sides. And one side of truth is this: you can take anyone on the planet, look into their past, and devour every particle of a person's life, and turn a story for the jackals to jump on and tear to pieces. This is the part where I really and truly feel sorry for "O", because I consider myself to be a pretty nice, ordinary person, but there are some days when I don't want to smile and make nice faces to the outside world. Even if you're worth ten bucks or a billion bucks, the weight of fame has to be pretty darn heavy at times. I feel sad that Oprah's many good works are criticized by those who feel she exploits her public image and uses it to sell her goodie-two-shoes image to the world at large. So what! Reality check: Oprah has changed the world for many women. AND, the woman is a pretty darn good businesswoman. She's smart, savvy, and she identifies with ordinary women of all ages, races, economic levels, and religions. All women, everywhere, need a little pat on the back every once in a while, rather it be in person or through television. Sometimes those little pats on the back are just the thing needed for someone to believe that the world can be a kinder and more gentle place with them in it. Oprah inspires me, makes me want to be a better person. I'm proud to be living in an age where a woman can be anything she wants to be. And if she doesn't feel like smiling all the time, or people want to berate her for being human, that's okay. That only makes me love her even more. You go Oprah!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Ahhh, another day on crutches. This is so totally not me. Doc informed me another four to five weeks before I can put my weight back on my foot. Okay, so I've become lazy with all this hobbling around in the last month. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and let source take over and do the mending, both in body and mind. Let the soul be the coolant for the over-revved human engine of delimma, namely, overthinking everything! There are times when you just need to sit back, clear your mind and reconnect with the beauty of being an eternal soul in a human body.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Yesterday was a wonderful day. Debbie, my friend and fellow blogger (Life is a Stitch and other thoughts that make you smile), brought lunch and a bottle of wine. We sat on my back porch and talked for several hours, just enjoying the woods and conversations about writing, quilting, a little of this - a little of that. The lunch of chicken salad, cucumber salad, a grain bread and fresh strawberries and grapes was absolutely delictible. In this fast-paced world, it's easy, and sometimes more convenient, to make do with fast-food friends, the friends that come and go in our lives, and in the end, we don't really know much about them. Like fast food containers, we end up throwing them away with little thought or concern. Me? I'd rather have the five-course friends, the friends where easy conversations and laughter come naturally, the friends I keep and treasure like my best china. Today, choose a friend and give them a call, just to let them know how much you value their love and support. Life is not about consuming the over-salted and pre-packaged convenient stuff. Indeed not. Life is about the preparation, sharing and savoring each bite.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


On HGTV they're always talking about "space." On House Hunters, the realtor and clients enter a house and undoubtedly someone says, "Oh, golly gee, this is a nice space. I love this space." Or, "This space is great for the man cave." I love all these little words that become overnight successes. For instance, a few years back, everyone needed "closure." Or, this one: "Are we on the same page?" Little words or phrases that catch on like a virus and invade our vocabulary. But space, yep, I like this one. Everyone needs space, especially writers.

Writers need lots of space. We do well in open desk areas with very sharp pencils, plenty of paperclips and lots of blank paper. Our space includes a computer and printer. We sit at our space in a comfortable chair. We sometimes light a fragrant candle to make our space more inviting, more conducive to writing a love scene or some poetic narrative. Writers find mood in space - the more space, the better the mood.

My morning space begins with coffee to my left, computer face-on, desk cleared of everything I don't need to get the morning started. I get on my blog-space and write something that is hopefully inspiring. I then get into my business-space where I knock out a few confirmations for the cabin rentals and do my batches for credit cards. By this time in the morning, I usually have to clear my space of debris; i.e. wadded up papers, a spray of paperclips, a few phone messages that came in while I was on the computer. After clearing my space, I go into my writer-space, or, my pretend space. Here, I make things up, lots of things that hopefully will go permanently into a story. After a few hours of writing, I have to come back to my reality-space. That means housework, cabin cleaning, cooking - all the stuff it takes to keep my outer-space clean and functional. Oh yes, you didn't know that, did you? You have both an inner-space and outer-space. Inner-space is personal, very private, like what psychologists talk about being an arm's length around your body. When people invade your inner space (standing too close) you get uncomfortable and intuitively back away from the intruder. The outer-space thing is everything else that is yours, but you have to maintain - including everything from your 12 speed blender to relationships you have with friends and family.

All this space talk is making me a bit dizzy. But I still like the word. It makes good sense. Even saying the word makes me want to stretch out and get comfortable. As they say on HGTV, "This is a good thing." Nah, that's Martha, isn't it? I'll try again. As they say on HGTV, "This is a good space. I love this space. What a wonderful space." Yep, this word will definitely stick around for a while, unlike granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and people who are being interviewed about their new home while slicing carrots and celery. Oh yeah, like, after the interview they won't just order a pizza and pig out in front of their big-screen TV in the man-cave. That's called pizza-space.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm back in the saddle - or at least riding side-saddle. Ankle is healing, and now hobbling along with great gusto, instead of pity-padding along, feeling sorry for myself.

In terms of writing, oftentimes, I get to this point - stumped on a sentence, paragraph or scene. It is then that I pull out the mental crutches and sink creative shoulders into them for support. Self-pity can be a mighty comfortable cushion when all else fails. BUT staying immobile for too long, can cause atrophy to the muscles of the body AND to the brain as well.

Story writing is not for the meek and humble. It's a fine line writers walk between ego and soul. We become the devil's advocate when it comes to picking and choosing through human emotions and spiritual awareness, all for the purpose of adding depth and personality to our characters. Just as a physical injury can bring a person to dead halt in activities, so does our creativity when we come to a scene that fails to work. Or, perhaps we become truly exhausted from constantly dipping into that sticky ego for emotional growth of characters, and then find it equally difficult to lean to the other side and pick our souls for the right paths our characters must choose to follow to get to the end of the book. As writers we constantly question motive and direction of our characters from ALL angles, just to make everything fit succinctly into the story we are creating.

Truly, as writers we must be aware that our minds dealve into areas that often make us question all five senses and even our mortality. All this questioning can be very tiring. When we tire, we tend to put down our tools and threaten to give up. But like muscle and bone healing after an injury, we must forge ahead and not become immersed in self-pity or self-criticism. Recognize these emotions for what they are: temporary and sometimes NECESSARY.

The next time when a scene, chapter, paragraph, or whatever stumps you, just think about this inconvenient dry spell as being a lull in activity that eventually gives new direction to your writing. Understand that all things are connected in life, and the stories we create become stronger only when we take time out to use the crutches to maintain balance in order to regain our stength. Just be aware that at some point in time, you must gather the courage to throw the crutches aside and walk on your own again.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Wow! My last blog was March 28th! Much has happened in that time, and then again, not much has happened. My ankle ended up being broken in two places, had surgery and now healing. The first two weeks I spent in complete denial, thinking my body would heal on its own. Wrong. Now, the surgery is over and I'm on my way to being back on my feet again.

There's much to be said for having nothing to do but think. I've spent the last few weeks thinking about who I am and where I am in my life. I've decided that always pushing to get ahead can get you into a lot of trouble, especially when you push when there is no resistance to push against. The result: falling flat on your face. There's much to be said for taking a time out from life, sitting back and realizing that life pretty much takes care of itself, IF you allow it to do so. Time is only an illusion. So, condense that busy schedule and sit down, give a big yawn and realize there is no such thing as time. Life does go on without you. So enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Ankle is healing, and hopefully everything will mend properly. It's hell getting old! BUT I'm a hard-headed mule, so I'll need to do what needs to be done to get back on both feet again. And speaking of old (as in old news), I'll let you know that ISLAND PASSAGE will finally be going to the publisher in another two weeks. I'm excited about getting it out of my hair, and then I'll be free to start on the next project. The most valuable lesson this hard-headed mule has learned from writing a second book is that life is a neverending learning process. AND nothing is ever gained from expending valuable energy on whining, rationalizing, or self-criticism. Growth, at times, can be downright perilous; refuse to wither in a drought of self-doubt.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Life has a way of showing us the path, even though we don't want to listen. Yesterday morning, I was taking a hike through the woods above a 90 foot waterfall. I was irritated with the amount of things I needed to accomplish that day and plenty aggravated that I had no choice but to plow through full speed without giving time to my writing. Of course, the mule at the head of plow was me. Mule-headed me, thinking the world just couldn't operate in a timely manner without my help. My hike yesterday morning brought on a very important lesson. Well...I reached a wooden bridge, slick with frost, and my right foot slipped, then caught, my ankle rolling to the left. I went down like a ton of bricks. When I held my foot up, it drooped to the right. Geez, that didn't look too good. Thank goodness I always walked with my friend Audrey and our dogs. Okay, I'm on a path above the falls and no way to get down. I asked Audrey to go on ahead and get my husband. In the meantime, I managed to get my legs under me, and then hobbled to the stairway and made my way down and through the rock path to the sandy part of Ash Cave. My husband and Audrey met me on the path coming out of the cave area. A bad sprain and now on crutches with probably a couple of months of recuperation on the right foot. Okay, God answers our prayers sometimes in the most ironic ways. In exchange for a bum foot, I now get my slow-down time and guess what? The world does go on without me. It's that darn ego working again, thinking only we can do the work that needs to be done. Sometimes, to get the best out of life, you must first give in to life. Life is paradox, for sure.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I've been in a real funk lately. Editing is one of the most mentally fatiguing tasks a person can undertake, especially if it's your own manuscript. On bended knee, I thank my critique partners for all their hard work and efforts in helping ISLAND PASSAGE come to a professional level. Impossible to have done it by myself. The mind sure plays tricks when it comes to editing, and my eyes have a habit of not picking up missed words, such as THE OR and IS, all the little buggers that can trip up a sentence. I find using a ruler helps in editing as my eyes are always anxious to quickly take in a line of manuscript, then jump down to the next. Not a good thing. My question is this: how can you love something so much when it causes such emotional distress? Writing is hard work, no doubt about it. The tough part is, we create something that only can be appreciated after the fact, meaning no physical structure to measure our progress. No one except a writer can appreciate the innumerable amount of hours spent in bringing a story to completeness. Although at this point, I'm beginning to see the light. Soon, I'll have to let this baby go and send it off to the printer. And then what? Well, my next project, of course!

Friday, March 12, 2010


I'm back after a few days of staring into space and wondering how to fit reality into the world of fiction. It's difficult for writers to disappear into their own heads and into the heads of fictional characters, become immersed in the lives of people who exist totally on paper. And then...come back out into reality and see that you still have a life to deal with on the outside. It's like spending the afternoon in a bar and coming out into the bright sunlight, eyes squinting to get used to the light on the outside world. Not that I spend afternoons in dark bars, but if the analogy fits, go with it. At any rate, I'm feeling renewed and ready to go into the final edits of ISLAND PASSAGE, and then off to the printer. Then, I'll go into the editing process again with DEVIL'S CHANGE, planning for that book to be out in 2011. Writing is difficult, no explanation needed as to the amount of work and mental fatigue it takes to produce a story that others will hopefully want to read. For writers, it is unusually difficult to put your head and heart into a project that no one sees until the finished product. This entails months and years of cyber copulation with your computer. Disgusting image, I suppose, but nonetheless the truth. Developing a story is no less than developing a relationship with characters, setting, plot and all the ingredients that must be taken into consideration. Sometimes this involves throwing some characters out into the snow and bringing other characters inside to perform the task needed to get to that ultimate climax in your story. The emotions needed to come to the end of your story is much the same as that give-and-take needed in any relationship. It takes patience and lots of nurturing to get to those last two words: THE END ...or happily ever after.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I have a lamp on my desk with a ribbed green shade, an old lamp that has been refashioned for electricity. Whenever I sit at the computer and try to say something unique and insightful, I look at the lamp and imagine it before electricity, functional with oil. Perhaps a woman, after finishing her chores for the day, sat down under the soft glow of this lamp and read a book or mended socks or rocked her children. Lives of men and women who went about doing ordinary tasks just to survive. Many of us are too young to remember a time when a man made $10.00 and spent no more than $10.00. No credit cards. No credit scores. A time when people made do with what they had, because there was no more. My father died in 1998. In his dresser drawer we found a small slip of paper from 1946 when he took an overnight trip with my mother. Every item he bought was duly noted on the paper: gas, lodging, dining. Would you believe the total expense for their trip was $15.00! My father and mother were "depression kids," growing up with an appreciation for simplicity and squeezing that nickel in their pocket until the buffalo pooped. When I write, I feel the love and security of a past that I'm sure I've added a few frills to over the years, making memories as mellow and soft as the light coming from the lamp on my desk.

Monday, March 1, 2010


My blog this morning will be short. I work two days a month at a law firm, helping with their billing and have to be dressed and out the door in fifteen minutes. But I do have a thought for the day about friendship.

Monday morning (yawn, stretch, drinking a sip of coffee) On my Sedona post I was thrilled to see one of my daughter's friends, Emily! I've known her since she was thirteen and remember Steph's (my daughter) slumber parties here at the house with all the other giggly girls. Again, friendships that may falter at times, are there, nonetheless. You see, friendships are like fingerprints: there for life and each unique in character. Emily is teacher and writer. And, on a more personal note: "Emily, I am so proud of the woman you have become." I'm also friends with her mom and dad, who I haven't seen in many years. Directed to Emily: Tell your mom and dad hi, and that I miss them.

Also, my friend, Barb Whittington, had an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday. If you get a chance, check out her blog. She is amazing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


It's Saturday, so my blog will be personal. The snowstorm last night brought my daughter and granddaughter (14) to our doorstep. Their car had slid off the icy road not far from our house. They were okay, but pretty shook up. If the car had slid six inches farther, the vehicle would've rolled down an embankment. They safely got out of the car and walked to a nearby nursing home and stayed there in the warmth until the tow truck arrived. While at the nursing home, my daughter talked to some of the residents in the lobby, all expressing delight at having visitors so late at night. One elderly woman took hold of my daughter's hand and claimed her as her own daughter. All in all, everything worked out fine. Instead of driving the 80 miles back to Columbus, they stayed the night with us. This morning my daughter woke up in her old room, and before ten o'clock was on the road again. Leia had big plans with her friends; Jake (10) had hockey; Tori (4) had Celtic dance. Or maybe it's called clogging. Anyway, such is life. I'm a lucky woman!!!

Friday, February 26, 2010


I got up this morning, poured my coffee, worked through a couple of chapters, and now I'm here on my blog. And please take the time to press the "Follow" button so I know you have found me. It only takes a minute. Thank you.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about a writer's voice and how for years I've tried to pin the rascal down and properly define it. Imagination is just as elusive. Someone once wrote that every writer has a central core to their writing. My core is women's fiction - books about women and what we universally feel as sisters in a world of diverse, yet common, communities. My imaginaton has a hard time following any other road. I love the friendships and bonding women share, be it that first best friend, immediate best friends, or friendships between sisters. Creating stories about women is as comfortable for me as sliding into a pair of worn shoes that have formed to the bones in my own feet. Imagination is a place where writers feel at home, where they feel comfortable enough to be exactly who they are on the inside wihout risk of being judged as being (nuts?). Just kidding. It's hard to believe some people say they have no imagination, whatsoever. To me, this is like saying to Peter Pan, "Hey there, you in the green tights and funny cap, there's no such thing as fairy dust." A world without imagination would indeed be a very dull world. Yes, Peter, I do believe in Tinkerbell.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Yesterday, I made a wheat bread to go with veggie soup I had in the freezer. For those of you who make bread, I don't have to explain how spiritual it is to go through the process of kneading dough and watching it raise in a warm place, then punching it back down and forming loaves that miraculously raise again for baking. My first attempts at making bread were laughable. My friend, Jenny, told me I wasn't "loving" the dough enough. The first loaves of bread that came out of my oven were deformed, the texture like eating a piece of cardboard. My dog even turned up his nose at it. But I didn't give up. I practiced until finally becoming almost one with the dough, taking a sort of primitive delight in watching the yeast bubble up before mixing it with the flour mixture. A deli owner from Cleveland told me to add a tsp. of sugar to the yeast granules and warm water. The result was an overflow of yeast, as if, by itself, it could jump into the flour mixture and start "working." There are meditative values in making bread, a sense of letting go and becoming lost in the preparation process. The intoxicating smell of fermentation (escaping alcohol and carbon dioxide), and then the wholesome baking smell of bread makes me feel humble and appreciative of the all the little things in my life. Do you suppose if we gathered all the world leaders in one big kitchen and made them bake bread together, we might have a better world for it? Maybe. (I took this photo in a colonial kitchen in Williamsburg, Virginia)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Catchy title, huh? Well, at least it got you here!

I've been a thrift store addict for over twenty years. Love the people, love the clothes, love inspecting what other people have thrown into cardboard boxes and dumped into one of those metal containers found in mall parking lots. Thrifters know these second-hand stores have no fancy frills, often concrete floors, and NO COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT. You buy it, you own it. The majority of "stuff" in thrift stores is dented, scratched, broken, or NEW (wedding, birthday, Christmas gifts someone didn't like). Hmmm, wonder if they've thought about re-gifting? Anyway, a thrifter knows it's all about separating through the really bad stuff and getting to the treasures. Ahhhh, yes, by now you've probably guessed where I'm going with this morning blog.

I'm on Chapter 12 of ISLAND PASSAGE, going through the manuscript again. Still picking through the "bad stuff" and getting to the "treasures." Let me give you some advice: forget the frills, fancy words, and trying to write like Toni Morrison. Remember this. Toni Morrison writes like Toni Morrison. Get the point? The more you dress up a sentence and call it literary, the more you look like a ten-year-old girl wearing Marilyn Monroe's bra. Go through and tighten your sentences, pick out the flowery words that trip the reader's concentration and makes him/her stop reading mid-sentence. After a few times of stopping-and-starting, the reader loses interest and drops YOUR BOOK into the return slot of the library. Or, if your reader actually bought the book, it might end up at a thrift shop, making the rounds of drab, metal shelving and keeping company with a hodge-podge of other books. No worries, I've found some wonderful "stuff" on those shelves! KEEP WRITING!!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I'm laughing, because I went on my follow blogger (Debra@Life is a Stitch and other random thoughts) Deb has watched so much of the Olympics, she's not getting enough sleep. If you get a chance, go on her blog. We all need a laugh this time of year. Actually, her last photo on the blog looks exactly like me at the moment. I've been editing my manuscript so much that the dark circles under my eyes are beginning to have dark circles. Good job, Deb. You hit my laugh nerve this morning.

Debra is a serious quilter. When she talks about the process of creating a new quilt, I know exactly what she is talking about (I'm not a quilter - I can barely thread a needle). But it always amazes me that the creative process is the same for everyone, whether it be writing novels, quilting, throwing clay, even making bread. It's all about finding the right materials or ingredients and putting lots of love into the PROCESS of creation. Fiction needs characters, plot, and setting. A writer's materials consist of computers, reams of paper, pencils, and a brain that can focus on stringing (or in quilter's language: piecing) words together into paragraphs and paragraphs into chapters. What is that old saying: Nothing worth doing right, comes easy. So I'll wear my racoon eyes with pride and continue editing. Thank you Debra for the inspiration this morning.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Okay, I'm late getting my blog on today. I've been working on editing, a chore, an unrelenting adventure, all starting at Chapter One AGAIN! But, it's all part of the process of writing. What I love most about editing is seeing the progress of the written story. On the other hand, it's aggravating to find mistakes that didn't pop out at me last time I went through this manuscript. ALL PART OF THE PROCESS, including all the second-guessing (ego.)I have to remind myself, TELL THE STORY, the rest will take care of itself. Sometimes you just have to tell the ego to take a vacation; otherwise, it just keeps getting under your feet. Trust that third-eye observation!

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I had dinner with friends last night. The subject of family reunions came up. Deb mentioned how family reunions just aren't the same anymore. There was a time when you looked forward to gatherings of family where mom brought the homemade noodles, Aunt Julie brought the scratch chocolate cake, and sister Barb brought her yummy mashed potatoes. My friend Jenny then laughed, saying how family reunions now gather around big buckets of store-bought chicken, cakes from the frozen food section of the grocery, and overcooked vegetables from the deli.  Ah, the good old days when we shared homemade foods and recipes. But in this economy there lurks a glimmer of hope. When I came home from the dinner with my friends, there was a note on Facebook from my workaholic daughter. She was talking about putting a garden in this spring, growing vegetables and learning how to can and freeze them. My goodness! I was thrilled beyond belief. Maybe this is one of those "What goes around, comes around" sort of things. A kind of Less is More thing where our children will bring back the art of cooking and loving the preparation of foods to be shared with family.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


In group discussions with other writers, I love the question: “What is “voice?” Always, there’s a quick turn of the head to the person sitting next to them, to see if they have an answer. Over the years, I’ve read articles on “voice,” listened to workshops on “voice,” and have had debates with my critique partner about “voice.” In the end, I’ve concluded the whole issue is complicated - and totally subjective. If we could put a rope around “voice” and wrangle it to the ground, look it straight in the eye, no doubt the slippery sucker still wouldn’t give up the secret.

Although may not be able to adequately define “voice,” I can tell you what I love about the “voice” of an author I connect with: Elizabeth Berg. She is by far one of my favorites. In her books, her characters touch me deeply, because they are about ordinary people, living ordinary lives, dealing with ordinary problems. Her characters say and do things I often find myself saying and doing. (Hmmm Do you suppose I love her books because they validate some inner need in myself? Definitely worth some thought). While some readers are drawn to mysteries, sci-fi, or romance, I’m drawn to books that celebrate family, food and friendships. And if an author has that special, magical “voice,” I usually can’t put the book down until after I’ve read every chapter.

Please feel free to comment!!

Friday, February 19, 2010


As you can see, I've changed my feature photo to a bedroom scene. I took this photograph while touring one of the colonial houses in Williamsburg, Virginia. I believe that every woman needs a cozy, private place to curl up and read the books of her heart.

Today, I want to talk about character development, more particularly female characters. My manuscripts always seem to begin with a "third eye" observation, or a particular scene that plays out in my head, a scene that for the most part becomes the pivitol point in the story. Next, I choose my protagonist, give her a dilemma, sprinkle in a few flaws, a dash of fear, and then let her simmer until I find a best friend who, for the most part, is misunderstood and totally underestimated by my protagonist. My belief is that women choose best friends, not for similarities in personalities, but for attributes they feel are missing in themselves. Women are complicated creatures, often not realizing their own individual strength and purpose until suffering through sorrow, rejection and loss. Women are survivors, able to pick up the small pieces of life and make them useful.

I once watched a quilting group as they worked over a quilt fashioned from bits of fabrics pulled from separate lives. Women understand the strength of community and the need to stitch together the small pieces, pieces that could've been easily tossed away and considered to be of no value. Watching this group of quilters gave me a sense of solidarity and such a rush of pride to be a woman. My characters will always be a patchwork of such beautiful women as this group.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Okay, this morning I've been trying to become friendly with this "blog" thing. I admit I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, especially when it comes to omputers. BUT I'll give myself this, I've managed to at least put a snowy photo in the heading box. Tried to put my book cover, THREE MOONS OVER SEDONA in the heading, unfortunately, it turned out gigantic. So, back to the learning curve.

Anyway, today, I'm editing clear through to the Epilogue on ISLAND PASSAGE. Then, I'll start again at Chapter One, line editing with a ruler to the end, searching for those little errors, or rearranging sentences like some people constantly rearrange their furniture. My biggest fear is that errors will show up in the finished book, mistakes that seem to crawl out of the wordwork like slum cockroaches whenever I go through the proofing process. This is the point in my creativity where I start denying myself a little credit for how far I've come with the book and usually end up spouting things like: I THOUGHT I CORRECTED THAT!  HOW DID I LEAVE THAT WORD OUT? HOW DID THAT LINE JUMP DOWN ANOTHER LINE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SENTENCE? Ah shucks, I'm only human. I'll cut myself some slack. Besides, I love my story,  I love writing, I love my characters. AND most of all, I  love when readers fall in love with my characters and feel a kinship with them.  Besides, I love coming to the end of a book and knowing I have a new beginning ready to hop onto page one!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



Forty-year-old Francine Durrett discovers receipts for jewelry and a room at the Blue Moon Motel at the bottom of her husband’s underwear drawer. She thinks he’s amazingly stupid. Or . . . maybe, he wanted to get caught.

Devastated by her husband’s infidelity, Francine flees her upscale suburban home with her angry fifteen-year-old daughter. Francine returns to the summer house on the Lake Erie island of Middle Bass, where she spent childhood summers with her family and best friend, Claudia Angelo. Francine hopes to heal a broken heart, re-connect with her daughter, and attempt to rediscover the simple, uncomplicated love she had once known as a child.

Not long after Francine’s return to the island, her best friend, Claudia, arrives unannounced on the doorstep of the island house. Francine has not seen Claudia for over five years. Claudia is rich, brash and stunningly beautiful, but unlike Francine, her childhood memories recall nothing but lies, poverty and neglect. For Claudia, the subject of her past is a dead issue. She comes to the island to repay a long-standing debt rooted in deception.

Alan Bromsley grew up on the island, a free-spirited boy who once challenged the world with little fear of the consequences. He now operates a small island flight service. No stranger to grief, Alan is a loner, a man at war with himself. In this tender-hearted story, Alan is confronted by the two women he'd once loved and lost twenty years ago.

Island Passage brings to life the reuniting of three estranged friends, torn apart by unforeseen circumstances, and then brought together in a tragedy that inadvertently unravels a sorrowful secret, a secret that could ultimately destroy them all.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I'm "shoveling" through my editing to the end of the book! ISLAND PASSAGE. Another run-through and then off to my critque partner for one last reading. Barb is a patient soul. If you get a chance, go to her blog As you can see from the photo, we're snowed in here in Hocking hills. Darn, this stuff is pretty, but not easy to maneuver around in. Did get into the library today to get a good dose of "library smell" into my lungs and go to the grocery.

Now, to my blog of the day about finishing up projects, or "Shoveling through to the End." I'm of the opinion that the majority of creative people have the same problem, whether it be writing, sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, or whatever. We procrastinate. Admittedly, I'm one of the biggest put-this-off-until-the-next-day gals. With the winter blahs and wanting to pull the covers over my head and hibernate until April, it's so much easier to let things slide by the wayside. Always tomorrow. Unfortunately, after a few days of free-range brain cell activity, I get irritated at myself for being, yes, I'll say the word, LAZY. Okay, so this morning I got up, and made myself do something FOR myself, first thing. I felt so good after my half hour of yoga that the next project of the day came much easier. I felt so much better about my work and myself. True, it does sound super simplistic, but believe me. Try it. Tomorrow morning when you wake up, do something for yourself, first!!! Whatever pleases you, do it!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday, February 15th

Good morning all. Today, I'm editing my new book, ISLAND PASSAGE, that will come out in May, 2010. I'm really excited about this book, because two old friends meet again in an atmosphere of childhood resentments and a secret that could devastate two families. It's been a long winter, and I'm suffering from severe cabin fever. Then . . . I look at the news and think, ah, shucks this "ain't" so bad. I'm warm, my stomach's full, and I don't have any immediate complaints. If anything, the economy and world catastrophes teach me to stop grumbling about the small stuff and get on with ordinary day-to-day living.

Okay, my plan is to finish up with the editing on ISLAND PASSAGE by the end of February. The front cover of the book has been started and is looking great! I have a great artist, Suzanne Karshner, who does a brilliant job making the story come alive on the front cover.

Barb Whittington, my critique partner and really wonderful friend, has been an inspiration and has given many thoughts and suggestions regarding my books. Writing is a tough and sometimes self-defeating job. The writing process constantly makes us question question question, and oftentimes, it's our own gut feelings that turn out to be the best answer. The core of my writing is women's fiction, love of family, friends and, yes, pets! I have a chocoloate lab (Brutus) and a cat (Mickey). And a wonderful husband, Tom. We all live together in a log cabin, built the old-fashioned way: one log at a time. My one true belief is LIFE IS WHAT WE MAKE IT!!!


Available at The Well Red Coyote in the virtual bookstore; Antigone Books in Tucson, AZ; Old Livery in Wickenburg, Arizona; Beehive Books in Delaware, Ohio; Great Expectations bookstore in Logan, Ohio; Scenic Way Gifts, Logan, Ohio; Windchime Shop, Logan, Ohio; Inn at Cedar Falls, Logan, Ohio;


Georgia Mae Brown has always lived an ordinary life. That is, until her husband dies in the arms of a younger woman. Six weeks after his death, Georgia slides behind the wheel of her husband’s beloved 1976 Fleetwood convertible, starts the engine and just keeps driving. Empowered by a volatile mix of freedom and retribution, Georgia begins a journey of a lifetime.

Traveling two thousand-miles to Sedona, Arizona, Georgia finds work in a café managed by the kooky proprietor, Trish Martin. Next door, the Moon Tide Gift Shop is owned by the exotic Zoe Atwater, the daughter of screen legend, Gloria Atwater. Befriended by these two flamboyant characters, Georgia finds new life in Sedona, an artisan town surrounded by the magnificent red rock scenery of Oak Creek Canyon. This energizing landscape of mysterious vortexes and new-age spiritualism revitalizes her soul. However, her two new friends have their own agendas, generating a major crisis that takes the three women to LA and a media Hollywood funeral. Georgia is suddenly thrust into the surreal world of A-list movie stars, glamorous Rodeo Drive, and tabloid hell.
Three Moons Over Sedona is an odyssey of the human heart, filled with secrets, regrets and finally forgiveness. Georgia is a survivor who learns that although you can never run away from yourself, you can—through pure determination—become the person you were always meant to be.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Writing doesn't come easy

Big sigh! Well, day one of blogging. My name is Sherry Hartzler and I write women's fiction. I write novels about women, for women. I'm passionate about books relating to family, friends and relationships. I'm hoping this blog will attract not only women who write in the genre of women's fiction, but women who love to curl up with a good book with a cup of coffee, tea, or a glass of wine.