Forty-nine and Still Dancing

Some people are funny about their age. I can understand your Hollywood-types being mysterious about their ages. But I am as far away from Hollywood in my personality, my values, and so on as you can get.
A few weeks ago, I celebrated my 49th birthday. It feels like a hallmark to me of a sort. So I thought I’d start blogging about being 49. I’m actually heading into my fiftieth year.
Do I have regrets? Hell, yes.
Would I do some things differently? Absolutely.
But mostly I’m happy to be here in this space and time and I’m extremely grateful to be writing fiction these days. After all this time, I think I’ve found the place in my work that feeds my spirit. Funny that it’s not poetry, which is what I would have said it would be had I been asked twenty years ago.
One of the best things about life is that you never know what’s going to happen next. I think it’s great to have expectations and goals—but being flexible might be just as important.
At one point in my life, I wanted to be a dancer. I was a serious ballet student and danced into college. But back then, being so short was holding me back. (It’s not quite like that anymore.) All through my dancing years, though, I wrote. I had already written my first novel in high school, even as I was choreographing the senior tribute to A Chorus Line. I’m a storyteller—whether it’s through dance or words—it is a compulsion in me.
Also, my compulsion extends to patterns—patterns in dance choreography, in poetry, in fiction, in quilting and scrapbooking. Do you see the links?
Unlike dance, which in order to really master you have to be a performer, writing has allowed me to explore and reach beyond what I thought my limits were mostly in private and through classroom and online classes and workshops. (So being short has never been a problem. Heh.) I am still learning, of course. I hope that I will never reach a point where I say there’s nothing more to learn about writing.
But you know what? I’m also still dancing. Zumba, three times a week and everyday at home every time something I like comes on the radio or stereo. The women I Zumba with? Most of them are a good bit older than me and they are still moving. At 49, I hope that when I’m 59, 69, and even 79, I’ll be in the gym shaking my thang.

Scrapbook of Secrets, Chapter One

It’s two months until launch day for SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS! To celebrate, I’m sharing the first chapter with you. Of course, I hope that it will spark your curiosity to read more and head right over to Amazon to pre-order a copy. But I also hope that you will just plain like it. Feel free to leave me a comment after reading it. If you’d rather chat about it, I’m having a lunch time chat on Friday on my Facebook author page. You are invited! Enjoy!

Chapter 1

For Vera, all of the day’s madness began when she saw the knife handle poking out of her mother’s neck. Her mother didn’t seem to know it. In fact, she was surprised that the blade was inside her. “How did that happen?” she demanded to know from her daughter.

Vera just looked at her . . . calmly. “Well, now, Mother, we need to call someone, an ambulance . . . a doctor. . . . I don’t know. Should we pull it out, or what?”

If Vera only had a nickel for every time her mother gave her that look. A look of unbelieving pity, as if to say, Sometimes I can’t believe the stupidity of my grown daughter. Having a brilliant mother was not easy—ever—especially not as an adult. As a child, Vera assumed all grown-ups were as smart as her mother, and it was easy to acquiesce to her in all of her grown-up, brilliant, scientific knowledge. At the age of eighty, Beatrice showed no signs of slowness in her mind or any forgetfulness. Nothing. Vera almost looked forward to the day she could help her mother remember something or even tell her something that she didn’t know.

As she sat in the X-ray waiting area, looking out the window over a construction site, with a huge dilapidated barn in the distance, she marveled once again at her mother’s strength and tenacity. Evidently, she was stabbed during her travels through the town this Saturday morning. She didn’t feel a thing—and with three grocery bags in her hands, Beatrice walked four blocks home, the same path she’d traveled for fifty years. “Four different grocery stores have been there and have gone out of business,” Beatrice would say. “Yet, I’m still here, walking the same street, the same path. I refuse to die.”

Beatrice would not allow her daughter—or anyone—to pick up groceries for her or take her shopping. She said that as long as she could keep getting herself to the grocery store, she knew she was fine. Food is life. “It’s the ancient food-foraging impulse in me. I feel it even stronger, the older I get. I want to take care of myself.”

How could a woman who still fended for herself every day—cooking, gardening, canning, cleaning, and writing—not feel a knife jab into her neck?

“Vera?” said a man in medical garb who stood in front of her.

“Yes,” she said, standing up.

“I’m Dr. Hansen. We’ve just X-rayed your mom and looked over the film,” he said, smiling, revealing two deep dimples and a beautiful set of teeth. He held the film in his hands. “Would you like to see them?”

She followed him over to the wall, where he clicked on a light and clipped on the X-ray to it.

“As you can see, the knife is pretty deep.” He pointed to the blade. His nails and hands were the cleanest Vera had ever seen on a man. An overall well-manicured appearance.

“Y-yes,” she stammered. That was a knife in her mother’s neck. A knife. Long and sharp. Menacing.

“Here’s the thing, rather than give you a bunch of medical mumbo jumbo, I’m just going to put this in lay terms.”

She despised his patronizing tone. He wasn’t even born yet when her father was practicing medicine out of their home. She knew about the human body. She was a dancer; her father was a physician. Her mother might be old, but she was no slouch.

“The reason your mom didn’t feel this is because it’s lodged in an area where there are few nerve endings, which is a blessing because she is not really in any pain,” he said, taking a breath. “You just don’t see this every day.”

“No,” Vera said.

“We can pull it out, using local anesthesia, with great risk for potential blood loss and so on. If she flinches or moves while we’re removing it, the damage could be severe. We can also operate to remove it, put her under, which I think is the safest thing.”

Vera looked at him for some guidance or answer. Damn it, Bill is out of town. “Have you talked to her about it?”

“Well, yes. . . .”


“She doesn’t want surgery. She wants us to pull it out.”

“So what’s the problem? It’s her body. I can’t make decisions like that for her.”

“Your mom is eighty years old and we’re not sure she’s thinking clearly. And the danger—”

“Doctor,” Vera said, trying not to roar. She felt an odd tightening in her guts. She stood up straighter. “My mother’s mind is perfectly fine. It’s her neck that seems to be the problem right now, and the fact that a knife is sticking out of it.”

He looked away. “Vera, I know this might be hard for you. A lot of times we don’t see the truth when it comes to our aging parents.”

“What exactly are you talking about? I am very close with my mom and would know if something was wrong. I don’t understand.”

“Well, she’s been talking to herself, for one thing.”

Vera laughed. “No, she’s not. She’s talking to my dad. He died about twenty years ago. She talks to him all the time.”

He looked at her as if she had lost her mind. “Do you think that’s normal?”

“For her, it is.”

Vera’s mind wandered as the doctor was called away. He said he’d be back. She looked at the crisp blue hospital walls, with beautiful landscape paintings, all strategically placed. One was above the leather sofa so you could lie or sit in style to await the news about your loved ones and gaze into the peaceful garden gazebo landscape; one was above the chair; the hallways were lined with them. Vera saw herself walking down the hall and looking at the same prints twenty years ago. Tranquil settings of barns and flowers did not help the pain. She was only twenty-one then, and she thought she’d soon be back in New York City. As soon as her father healed, got home, and was on the road to being himself, she’d hop on the train to continue her dancing career. She had no idea she’d never see her father again—nor would she ever dance professionally again.

The last time Vera was here was with her father. The hospital had just opened, and he was impressed with the technology and the vibrant pulse of new medicine. The research arm intrigued him. Some older doctors were jaded and looked at the new hospital with suspicion, but not her father. Ironic that he died here, under the new establishment’s care.

She sighed a deep and heavy sigh.

“Vera!” It was Sheila running up the hall, wiry brown hair needing combing. She was dressed in a mismatched sweat suit. “Oh, girl! What on earth is going on? I’ve been hearing rumors. Is your mama okay? Lord!”

For the first time that day, Vera smiled. “Sit down, Sheila. You’re a mess.”

Sheila took a quick look at herself and laughed. “You know, I just threw anything on. Is your mother—”

“She’s fine,” said Vera. “She’s trying to tell the doctors what to do.”

“Really?” Sheila sat up a little straighter, looking very serious. “I can hardly believe that,” she said, and a laugh escaped. Then she grabbed her belly and howled in a fit of laughter.

Vera felt tears coming to her eyes through her own chortles. “You haven’t heard the best part,” she managed to say, trying to calm herself down as a nurse passed by, glancing at them. “Mama was stabbed and she never felt a thing.”

“What?” Sheila stopped laughing for a minute. “Are you serious?” Her face reddened and laugher escaped. “Oh, girl, only Beatrice. Only Beatrice.”

Vera’s mother had just been stabbed, and she and her best friend were laughing about it, like schoolgirls unable to control their nervous giggles. A part of Vera felt like she was betraying her mother. However, she knew if Beatrice had been in this room, she’d be laughing, too.

When the women calmed down, Sheila brought up Maggie Rae, which was the other startling news of the day. “Did you hear the news?”

Vera sighed. “Yes, I heard about it. I saw the ambulances and police at her house and went over to see what was happening. You know, I blame myself. I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know what to do about it, or maybe I just tried to talk myself out of it.”

Vera thought about the tiny young mother, always with her children clinging to her, and with a baby on her hip—or in a stroller. She was pretty in a simple way—never made-up, always pulled her long black hair into a ponytail and wore glasses most of the time. Though once or twice, Vera had seen her wearing contacts, which really opened up her face. Even though Maggie Rae rarely made eye contact, she always held herself erect and moved with a graceful confidence and sway in her hips.

“Now, Vera,” said Sheila, “you hardly knew that woman. Who really knew her? She kept to herself.”

“She brought Grace in for dance lessons once a week,” Vera told her. “I know her as well as any of the rest of them. Except she was awfully quiet. And so small. Like a bird. Every time I saw her, it looked like she had gotten even thinner.”

“Hmm-hmm, I know. It’s odd. She was one of my best customers, but she never came to a crop,” said Sheila, who sold scrapbooking supplies for a living. “I invited her. She never came, so I just . . . stopped. You know, you can only push so far. ”

They sat in their own silence, with the hospital noise all around them, each knowing her own sadness and her own triumphs and joys, but neither knowing what it was like to be pushed quite that far. To be pushed far enough to put a gun to one’s head while the children were peacefully sleeping upstairs. What kind of darkness led Maggie Rae Dasher to that moment? And what do people ever really know about the neighbors and townsfolk who live among them?

“Did she leave a note or anything?” Vera wondered out loud.

Sheila shrugged.

A nurse dressed all in blue passed them; a mother carrying a baby in a carrier and holding the hand of a toddler limped along; someone was coughing and another person laughed. A man in a wheelchair wheeled by them, while another gentleman hobbled with a cane. Phones were ringing. Announcements were being made—doctors were paged.

“Damn,” said Sheila. “This place sucks.”

“Wonder where the doctor is?” Vera looked around. “I’m going over to that desk to see what’s going on. I should at least be able to see Mama.”

As Vera walked around the nurses’ station to try to find some help, she thought she could hear her mother’s voice.

“What?” the voice said. “Listen, you twit, you’ll do it because I said you will. Stop treating me like I am five. I am eighty, of sound mind and body, except for this friggin’ knife hanging out of my neck. And oh, by the way, I am a doctor of physics myself. So don’t tell me—”

“Mama,” Vera interrupted as she walked into the room. Sitting up in bed, her mother looked so small, which belied the sound of her voice and the redness of her face. “Calm down, sweetie.”

She folded her arms over her chest. “Son of a bitch!” She cocked her head and looked behind Vera. “What’s the scrapbook queen doing here? Am I dying or something?”

“Hey,” Sheila said. “You’ve got a knife sticking out of the back of your neck. Don’t get too cocky, old woman.”

“Huh!” Beatrice said, and smiled. “Glad to see you, too. Now, Vera, what are we going to do about this mess?”

“I told the doctor that it’s your body. You do what you want, Mama.”

“Yes, but,” she said, after taking a sip of water, leaning forward on the pillows that were propping her in an awkward position, which forced her to sit up so the knife would not hit the bed, “what do you think? What would you do?”

Vera could hardly believe what she was hearing. Her mother was asking for her advice. She couldn’t remember if that had happened before. “Honestly, if it were me, I’d want to be put out. I’d be afraid of moving, you know?”

“I don’t know about being operated on at my age. . . . You know they killed your daddy. What if they kill me, too? I can’t leave yet. I’ve got too much work to do, and then there’s you. I can’t leave you without a parent,” she said quietly.

Vera knew that’s what it would come to—this is where he died, not for his heart problems, but from a staph infection.

“Just do what she asks,” Vera said to the young doctor, who was still hovering. “She won’t move.”


Blending Genre

This is  the third stop on the Mystery Writer Blog Tours Ink.

This article is the third entry in a rolling blog tour on the topic of genre blending.  For the previous tour, please see Ryder Islington’s post on plotting. The details on all the participants in today’s tour are at the bottom of this post, as well as a link to the next article in the series. The next blog tour will be Wednesday and our subject will be our favorite reference books. It will start with Nancy Lauzon

Today’s subject: Genre Blending

The series I’m working on right now is squarely in the “cozy” mystery genre. For those of you who are not sure what that means, it’s usually defined as a  mystery  in which there is no graphic violence and sex. Many “traditional” mysteries fit that criteria, as well.

With SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS, plenty of sex goes on, but it happens off-camera. The reader doesn’t see it or any of the gory details of the unexpected death, either. And there really isn’t enough of that sex to qualify it as a romantic mystery. And the romance strains in the book are sort of, um, un-romantic.  But this first book in my series has definite paranormal elements. But does that make it a paranormal mystery?

No. Because it isn’t a driving thread to the story. What moves it forward is the mystery. Unsexed up. With no graphic violence. So it’s a cozy. (A word I really don’t like, but there you have it.)

I hope the example of what my book is and what is not helps clarify the mysterious thing that is genre. It’s very often about balance—which thread is the most important thread  in the book?

So if you are blending genre, both genre elements should be of equal importance. Let’s take romantic suspense, a very popular genre of it’s own, now. But, it’s a blending of romance and suspense or mystery. The couple is in a situation because of the suspense. The suspense is ratcheted up because of this romance. Or vice versa. You can’t pull it apart because one element hinges on the other.

As far as I’m concerned, genre blending makes a good story even better, more complicated and layered.

Where it gets complicated for writers, first-time novelists in particular, is defining which thread is the most important so that we can represent our manuscripts to an agent, publisher, and ultimately reader, in the most accurate way possible. It’s difficult for us to see our  own work clearly sometimes. But if you take the time to study your genre, read a lot of books in that genre,  it will help.

What genre are you writing in? What do you like to read?

Check out what some of the other writers on the blog tour say about genre blending.

The next entry in today’s tour is by John Hines I encourage you to complete the tour, and jump in there and comment.


Below is a list of the participants in today’s roll. We’d love it if you could stop by each of them and read more about genre blending.

Five Questions for Jenny Gardiner (Part One)

I met Jenny Gardiner more than a few years ago through a Charlottesville writers group, the Literary Ladies who Lunch. (Sounds fancy. But we are a group of working writers and editors who get together for support and writerly exchange.) We hit it off right away.

She’s hilarious, kind, a prolific writer, and she has roots in Western Pennsylvania, and so do I. We also both started our professional writing careers in journalism, though she moved into fiction way before I did. Jenny has been in the business a long time and meets the industry changes with professional panache.

Please visit her site to check out all of her books at

Here’s my five questions for Jenny:

1. You’ve done a lot of non-fiction and fiction writing.Do you have any thoughts on the similarities and the differences?

JG: It’s easier doing fiction because you just make it all up as you go along and can bend and twist things to make it work precisely how you’d like to. Not so easy with non-fiction.

2. You’ve been around publishing for a long time. What do you think is the biggest change over the past few years. And is it good or bad?

JG: Well, that’s a very loaded question. The HUGEST change of course is that things are going digital and are doing so at warp speed. This has been quite literally revolutionary, and the publishing industry just simply refused to grasp that it was coming, and then was quite taken aback when it happened so quickly. I think the digital revolution is probably a very good thing, it is giving authors a chance to have control over their careers when until now the arbiters were those very selective “gatekeepers” who had the power to make or break your career simply based on whether a few individuals liked what you wrote. Now you can leave it up to your readers to decide if they like it. That’s a gorgeous thing.

The other thing that had radically altered the course of this business because it coincided with such enormous changes with the terrible hit the economic downturn had on the industry. I know authors saying that they’d never in 20 or 30- year careers seen such a change and seen  so many books that would otherwise had been published be rejected by the New York houses. There were so many jobs lost, so many mergers in publishing houses that the ultimate outcome was that house became will to publish sure bets. That means Snookis and Real Housewives get the publishing deals and authors who are actually writers who have great books are not getting book deals. It also means that if you haven’t crossed the threshold of the magic door to publishing before things changed for the worse, then your chances of ever succeeding in this business got dramatically worse.

Part two coming up!

Five Things about Clare O’Donohue

The first job I landed after college graduation was as a paste-up artist for a small community newspaper. (I was “allowed” to write on my own time.)  When the publisher asked me what my hobbies were, and I said quilting. He said, “The job is yours.” Later, he told me that quilters have  a personality trait he had learned to look for over the years—the ability to be exact and meticulous, along with creative.

I was reminded of this long-ago interview recently during my emails with Clare O’Donohue, who also came to fiction after years in other media and is a quilter.  Her well-crafted “Someday Quilts” mystery series blends good, descriptive storytelling and quilting expertise.

Here’s a bit of background from Clare’s website, then my five questions.

“After college I worked as a newspaper reporter and writing teacher before moving to LA and getting my first job in television. That was on the HGTV show, Simply Quilts.

I worked on the show for four seasons, eventually becoming the Supervising Producer but I’ve written and produced for a lot of other shows as well.  In the last twelve years, I’ve worked on shows for The History Channel, truTV, Food Network, A&E, Discovery, TLC, and others. My work has taken me all across the US and abroad and I’ve met a diverse group of people – from CEO’s to prison inmates, Malaysian orphans to famous athletes.”

My questions:

1.     Which came first for you writing or quilting?

Writing. I’ve been writing stories since I was about fifteen, and writing professionally (as a newspaper reporter then TV producer) since I graduated college. But quilting wasn’t far behind. I made my first quilt when I was about twenty-four, when I was looking for a way to redecorate the bedroom of my first apartment, and I got it in my head to make a quilt. Prior to that I’d never sewn anything more complicated than putting a loose button back on a shirt, but I had done other kinds of needlework – cross-stitch and needlepoint – so I decided to tackle it. That was at least seventy-five quilts ago.

2.     I see that your next book out in May is not a quilting mystery. Will you ever revisit your quilting mysteries?

My next book, MISSING PERSONS, focuses on another topic I know something about – producing TV shows. I’ve been a TV producer for about twelve years now. It’s darker and more cynical than my Someday Quilts books, so I hope my fans will follow me to this new series. And there will be a fourth Someday Quilts Mysteries, out September 27th. It’s called THE DEVIL’S PUZZLE, and delves into the history of the town, and some secrets that members of the quilt group have been hiding from Nell.

3.     You’ve had some experience writing things other than novels. You were a reporter and worked in tv. Have you ever thought about the differences between nonfiction and fiction? And the similarities?

Writing newspaper and TV was, and is, a wonderful experience because it taught me to research, to meet deadlines, and to be disciplined in my approach to my work. People are sometimes surprised I’ve written five novels in four years, but “writer’s block” is something no newspaper or TV person ever has. We can’t. We’d be fired. So, I bring that to writing fiction.  Other than that, I’d say that the non-fiction I’ve written is so structured, so precise, with only a specific amount of words I can use, and usually in someone else’s style, that writing fiction feels so freeing. It’s unbelievable fun to make it up as I go.

4.     What is the one thing you wish you would have known about writing fiction before you started?

Honestly, that it’s a business. That as an author you’re not just writing books, you are a one-person small business. Marketing, taxes, networking … you name it, it’s on you to take care of it. For me that was a steep learning curve.

5.     I close with this same question for everybody. If you could be a pie, what would you be and why?;-)

I wish I could say French Silk – smooth, rich and decadent. But I think I’m more like a homemade apple pie. Not perfect, but comfortable, unpretentious and, hopefully, just the right combination of tart and sweet.

Thanks so much Clare for the interview!

Check out Clare’s website and books!

Five Questions with India Drummond

Today, I’m starting a new feature on my blog where I interview authors. In this day of the ever-changing publishing landscape, it’s appropriate to start with India Drummond. She is successfully entering the world of e-publishing with a traditional e-publisher—but she has a ten-year plan of publishing her own work. It will be fascinating to watch her career progress—and succeed. Full disclosure: India is one of my best “writing” friends. It’s been my privilege and pleasure to be one of the early readers of this book and to watch it develop. It’s a fun and SEXY read. I still think about these characters.

Next, a bit about India from her press materials.

India knew from age nine that writing would be her passion. Since then she’s discovered many more, but none quite so fulfilling as creating a world, a character, or a moment and watching them evolve into something complex and compelling. She has lived in three countries and four American states, is a dual British and American citizen, and currently lives at the base of the Scottish Highlands in a village so small its main attraction is a red phone box. In other words: paradise.

The supernatural and paranormal have always fascinated India. In addition to being an avid sci-fi and fantasy reader, she also enjoys mysteries, thrillers, and romance. This probably explains why her novels have elements of adventure, ghosts (or elves, fairies, angels, aliens, and whatever else she can dream up), and spicy love stories.

Q: How did you get the idea for Ordinary Angels?

It started with a playful argument with a certain highlander (the hubby) in which he declared himself to be “a perfect angel”. It got me wondering what angels would be like if they were real and if we removed the religious context. What if they were people somewhat like us? I started thinking how they would relate to humans, and the ideas sprang from there.

I’ve always enjoyed the paranormal, but never been much into vampires and werewolves. This was an opportunity for me to explore the possibilities and write something fresh and new.

Q: Do you think you will write more about these characters? As in a series?

Yes. Absolutely! The sequel to Ordinary Angels is called Familiar Demons, and it’s scheduled for a 2012 release. I’m excited about the sequel, which is already outlined, and I even hope to write a third in the series. In Familiar Demons, readers will learn more about Zoe’s powers, her parents, and we’ll all get to know Thomas much better as well. Although the main love interest in Ordinary Angels is Alexander, I have to admit Thomas is my secret crush. I couldn’t resist exploring his character some more. But never fear, Alexander will still be by Zoe’s side.

Q: You’ve said that you plan to self-publish from this point on. What qualities that you and/or your work have that will help for you to succeed?

Although I sincerely appreciate the faith my publisher showed in me by giving me that first contract, I realised one day that they weren’t doing anything for me that I couldn’t either do myself or hire done. Plus, by indie publishing, I can get my work out faster, because I don’t have to worry about queuing dozens of books by different authors. So by going indie, I’m cutting out the middle-man.

Indie publishing is hard work, but I love it, so it’s not a burden. It requires a lot of hands-on effort and long hours. But I have the technical expertise, a great circle of professionals around me, and I’ve never felt so energised and excited about my writing career.

Q: I’m not going to ask who your favorite writers are, but I wonder if you could tell me what your favorite genre is and about how many books you read each week?

This is tough, because I enjoy many genre. I love mysteries, which is one reason I was so excited by your new mystery series. I read everything from cozies to thrillers in that arena. I like adventure stories, romance, sci-fi, epic fantasy, urban fantasy… there’s really not a lot I won’t try. As far as how much, I tend to go in bursts. I don’t read a lot when I’m composing stories, because I don’t want anything to influence my own writing. When I’m in editing-mode, I can take in two or three books a week. That number has definitely gone up since getting my Kindle—I’ve turned into an ebook tart!

Q: Okay. So you knew this was coming. If you could be a pie, which kind of pie would you be and why?

Something rich, sweet, and totally decadent: chocolate meringue. (I had to look up how to spell “meringue”—I’m a horrible speller—and it said “a delicate, frothy mixture”. Goodness… that says it all right there!)

Thank you so much for having me here today! I love your pie book and cannot wait for your fiction to appear on my Kindle! It’s a real honour to be here.

Thank you, India!

About India’s book:

Lyrical Press, Inc
Price: $5.50
Publication Date: April 4, 2011

An urban fantasy / paranormal novel in which Zoë Pendergraft falls in love with an angel, frees a soul from necromancers, releases a ghost trapped in the Void, and saves his living grandson from demons.

An angel is about to fall…

Although most of Zoe Pendergraft’s friends are dead, that means nothing to her. After all, they died long before she meet them. What does matter is the angel who took her dancing and turned her world upside down. But grim reality intrudes when she finds a body, and the Higher Angels accuse her friend of the murder.

Knowing she’s the only one who can stand against the Higher Angels, Zoe uses any means necessary to save her friend…all the while, wondering if the tempestuous love she’s feeling is real. The blood on her hands forces Zoe to question herself, and her angel to question her.

Contains strong language and supernatural sizzle.


More about India:

Author website and blog:
Facebook Fan Page:


Last night’s Yoga class was mostly intense stretching. Sometimes, I am overcome by the sheer joy I feel from a good stretch. It’s like a huge, deep, body breath—the muscles and bones, yes, but also something deeper. I  feel a huge sigh with each stretch. It’s almost the same kind of sigh I feel when I’m in the writing zone—especially writing fiction. I’m aware of the blessings of doing what I love, reaching inside, pulling out stories, characters. Creating. When I think about it, where I am now has come from a long stretch—from nonfiction to fiction. So, while I’m stretching my arms, legs, hips, back, shoulders, I see with clarity that I’m also stretching my life and my writing. It is a good thing, this stretching business. We all need more of it, don’t we?

My Fiction Life

This is how it all began for me: a call to story. When I was a child, I filled notebooks with words and images, and danced my stories in the living room of our tiny mobile home, then later, on the stage. Whether I was dancing, acting, or writing, it was the story that called to me.

Later, I studied journalism in college, worked as an editorial assistant, wrote newsletters, ad and brochure copy, magazine articles, essays, poetry, but the novel question always nagged at me. Could I do it?

So when National Novel Writing Month came around last year, my good friend Kate Antea gently persuaded me. The challenge is to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. I had been thinking about this story for a few years. A story about the power of women’s friendship, about community, or the lack of it. So that’s how it started—this glimmer of an idea.

As I mentioned, I had the idea years ago, but there were articles and cookbooks to write in the mean time, along with a strong flirtation with romance novel writing.

Along with all of my other work in November, I vowed to finish this novel. I wrote around my deadlines and promotion commitments on my pie book. I wrote late at night. I wrote early in the morning. And when I was lucky, I wrote all day long. The next thing I knew I had a novel—or at least the first draft of one.

In the mean time my fiction agent, Sharon Bowers, of the Miller Literary Agency took an interest in one of those drafts (might have been the fifth) and coached me along to write even another draft. (Angela Miller of the same agency is my nonfiction agent, which is how I met Sharon.) The next thing you know, Sharon sold MAGGIE RAE’S SCRAPBOOKS to Kensington Publishing. Based on the first book, they want two more: a series of books. Pretty cool.

So I’ll be writing a lot more fiction over the next few years. But never fear, there will be more cookbooks, articles, essays, and so on. I’ve found that one often feeds the other. And it may work against me in some ways, but I refuse to just write one way for one market or just cover one topic for the rest of my life. One of my goals as a writer is to push myself to broaden my writing “vocabulary” through exploring different genres, topics, or venues.

Story is story. Whether it’s the true story about Mrs. Rowe, pie, my mom or the fictional story of Maggie Rae Dasher, the call is the same.

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. I can only see the outline of the mountains. It's going to be a humid
2. Sometimes it's harder to run than other times. Like today, I feel a
heaviness I need to wade through in my legs.
3. So proud of Marijean for starting to run yesterday and I hope she's
doing okay today.
4. Gosh, I love writing fiction. Okay, it's not literary. But it's fun.
And I need that–and evidently a lot of readers do, as well. I hope to
have time to attempt literary someday. What better way to learn to write
fiction than to just plunge into it–for the fun of it? And I am
learning so much.
5. I keep getting bits and pieces of good news about Maggie Rae. Nothing
solid yet

Five things I thought about during my morning run:

1. I loved the Wii, but nothing like getting outside.
2. Maggie Rae's Scrapbooks. You see, I promised myself no fiction in
December. But that was WRITING, not editing and rewriting. As I have
been going through Holiday busy-ness, I would think about the story and
where I wanted to make changes. And then when I had a few moments…In
truth, that's how a lot of my writing gets done. I think so much about
it when I am doing other stuff and when I sit down in front of the
computer, there it is.
3. My writing space is sun porch and it really has no heat. We have a
space heater, which usually does the job. But these days, it's a bit
too cold for me.
4. I can't believe how well I slept last night. From 9 to 7:30, only
waking up a few times and able to get right back to sleep. I think the
Estroven PM is really helping.
4. Oh look neighbor has a pumpkin in the trash. Now I don't feel so bad
about my beautiful little autumn gourds still on my patio.